By Stephen Kingsnorth
Dementia Rhyme and Reason
But is there clearer path, amazed,
a way out, exodus release,
to paddle, flooded verse averse,
these streams concurrent, tidal flux,
when ripping yarns tear from the coast,
another Minotaur from deep,
a Babel in Marianas Trench,
pretender to the mother God?
Letter pieces thrown from board,
I wait until they drop.
Except, not quite, I speak of ready words,
the dictionary pages torn,
then through a hungry shredder fed.
I take the slithers out of their place,
remaining neighbours, never less.
‘Components’ for ‘ingredients’, I scrabble for my word;
the tip of tongue, I know am wrong,
but know the thinking right.
These cursèd prompts that loop the loop,
as climbing trees that someone lops,
the bark far rougher than the bite,
both phloem and xylem flows combined.
Dyslexic read from right to left,
though lexic say, dys back to front,
my verse is obvious to me,
though morrow it’s so far away,
that hope my carer may explain
the links to putt my ball on green –
I think the other day at par.
I can think silently, fish gasping for my term,
or float its neighbour, maggot hook,
hope close enough to reel.
I might consume Crabb’s synonyms,
helped glass of ginger wine,
a change of letter, sound almost same,
some journey in my mind.
At least my world holistic, linked,
though far too many trifles here –
my hero named Autolycus;
least general knowledge quizzes fade,
I fear my English Lit degree,
and often know where sentence leads,
and rudely jump, fill in the blanks.
A bridging chain, to forge a link.
The rail, the train, the radio –
unless she’s chill, having a ball –
cross-leggèd girl, holds Apple stock,
for blaster from the ghetto, tracks
to wake the sleepers bedded down,
as those on board, but dozing off,
through rhythmic rock and rolling stock.
Seen gleaming teeth, I hear the crunch –
but not, one hopes, on the downline –
while black and white suggest the past,
a vanished age beyond the point,
when all seemed well with peace not war,
angled, parallel universe.
Energy buttressed, poles apart,
white posts, receding memories –
a graveyard, naïve innocents,
like Woodstock on an urban set,
transported here through time and space,
belief suspended overhead.
Well dressed, is she a modelled snap,
her carriage frozen, train set, same,
maybe from right side of the tracks?
This spin, not counter-culture stuff –
not flower-power, or hippie trail,
nor Hendrix stars and strafe, guitar.
I’m derailed by nostalgia trap.
Unique, a shot across the bow,
but she said ‘no, cannot be done’,
that one off chance, sole lifetime view,
the pylon, lines stretched parallel,
dead centre of that semi-curve,
a rainbow juxtaposed above,
an image unrepeatable,
with I-phone, unforgettable.
I saw the competitions fade,
ekphrastic work, header denied,
black stripes beneath the promise laid.
A verse without the evidence,
the contest stayed, though mindful played,
but not conveyed by words alone,
my wonder at exactitude.
Weak sunlight, rain, in moment mixed
as backdrop, electricity,
created once, all lost, foregone,
like old days, when burnt negative,
the brand of opportunity
denied, decried, or simply passed,
a turning in the road, now missed.
And I’m reduced, manipulate.
In vest, short shorts, quick reflex points,
our up and over, chain-link fence,
we traded jokes, paraded skills,
especially under watch of girls,
as learnt to make a better pass,
slow climbed team pecking order, cheeked,
our early learning underway.
Lithe limbed, grown pecs, less heaving chests,
we argued, competition rules,
but knew that friendship surpassed wins;
we found that bruising brought out best,
concern, take care, strip bandages,
best treatment, algebra of bones.
We cursed at dogs which mucked about,
grass scraped together, rubbed along,
and rolled our joints to reach our dreams.
Short bounce, tall slide, taut words and terms,
vocabulary of the court,
and when were caught, swore under breath,
the oaths we’d take another place.
While palms were crossed, high five for some,
as sentence passed, no spin at all.
And now this frame is old, grey, tired,
waste band that sags, hangs out below,
with knots, sad bag, though ties still hold,
wee lads that made it to the man.
I guess this now a sunset cause,
the last post calling, rusty links,
as green tufts breaking through the tar,
our baby stubs, where we first puffed.
Buddleia blooms, flit butterflies
now hover where we stood our ground;
but soon I’ll lie and rest awhile,
those sods around the plot I chose –
a final hoop, then down to land.
She said spring cleaning once a year
that carried soles to upper rung,
a duster reach to cobweb deep
within the recess of my heart.
What would I keep in storage box
on wardrobe top, under the bed,
where prying eyes are first to look,
uncover secrets hidden there?
I saw her disappointed face
as expectation withered there,
pretending not intended goal
to find what occupies my soul.
She has a way of stripping back,
as if the decorator’s art,
that steals from mind, inhibitors –
desert their ground, AWOL alert,
protective seal ripped, shielding steel,
unknown materiel revealed,
as stratagem achieves its worst
and I am left to count the cost.
The battle lost – no war declared –
all games played out without suspense;
why did I not detect her scheme?
That’s how granddaughters are at six.