And as the pen at rest inside my head
awakes and aches to resume its place
at our favourite table or easy chair –
which of course we gladly share given
the time we spend together there;
so, to keep it sweet as best I can,
despite a delinquent grey June day,
I tell myself that my plan will be to follow,
closely, this unprepossessing thing in
plotting the route from the day’s beginning
to the point when, body and mind aligned,
we nod to the other to say okay, let’s go,
let’s start the morning shift on time.
But before proceeding with that plan and plot,
the word “shift” requires some navel-gazing:
first, I discard from possibility the sense of
significant movement; the morning’s going
nowhere soon; and, second, was it really right
to suggest that our creativity be timed by
reference to the chime of bells or (worse) some
honking hooter and thereby write, in overused verse,
dull words about factory floors and revolving doors.
But this illuminates the gaping irony that,
while free time, post-“work”, might seem to stretch away
and so gradually provide grandchildren, dogs and hens that lay,
the reality is that time is given me because I’m
older than I was and know my term is comfortingly finite.
So there’s work to be done and “shift” a good measure
(but hear me clearly now, I’ll not do nights!).
Back to the start: we’d left pen and me
gradually waking on a mid-summer morning
in a house in a town we’d found by chance
thirty years before. Peace resides and lies
across the length of my outstretched limbs,
then pulls a drawstring lightly round my neck
to keep my body’s peace as long as permitted
allowing it to slowly seep away and mix with
the early stirrings of the town’s inhalations,
its exhalations, the movements and emotions
of its denizens, the tokens of their estimations,
the meaning of their hesitations.
Soon enough, and sure enough, the day promised
starts to require attention and, tugging back the curtains,
I fix my eyes on the weathering of Chanctonbury’s downs
as the day expected confirms the means and aims of
all peregrinations abroad – a visual feast for my and
a million more eyes around the time when a moment may be
stopped in its tracks just to garner information from
the briefest observations. My pen agrees to hold fast,
to suspend operations, while I look closely at the ridge –after all, it can
learn as much as I, as I stand quietly contemplating
the dark black enigma of why, why, why is our natural world
so beautiful, so generous, so enchanting?
I have developed over time, then simplified my answer:
I wasted time in considerations of Science and in failing
to accept – nay, even to articulate publicly – that man is
not of this Earth nor of any god worth having. We, and all
our circumstances, are just tiny accidents bobbing about
in an inaccessible universe. We do not, we dare not,
contemplate beyond the start of the next deep freeze.
The thereafter will be what it will be; and goodbye
will be our most common, our most wilting, word.
Thus does Chanctonbury win hands down: it knows
we know that we are lost in every way; addicts to poignancy,
we drink it in and tremble with it. But so long as it
doles out the beauty, the generosity, the enchantment
we shall always forgive it.
Now and then I look at my pen and conjure up
fanciful images of alternative man; I smile at the thought
that both of us are reproduced, innumerable times:
same hair, same ten toes (same tippy-toes), same
patterns of moles, same indelible ink sinking into
the same whirling thumbprints. What else but to smile,
to brush up the crumbs and practise dropping them on
drying tongues that can no longer taste? Soon unnoticed waste,
let’s look for our pens and write down how we move from
today’s plenty of And As to our unstoppable fall to And Was.