A halfway kind of being in a nowhere kind of town.
In all my wild imaginings I never dreamed that I
Would end up as this desk-bound, mortgaged, soft suburban guy.
And so I let my thoughts take off and float like thistledown
Across the great grey ocean, hazy plain and mountain crest
To where my dreams lie hidden
In the west.
No mansion waits there for me: just a strong, plain house of wood
And river-stone. A saddle barn and round corrals outside
And from the porch an eagle’s view across the Great Divide;
A life I was not born to, but I’d learn it if I could
For my heart’s surely bidden
By the west
I saw it, touched and tasted it so many years ago;
Life called me back, but something deep dug in, and stayed out there.
What happened to that younger self, who walked without a care?
A man I half recall, but if I met I’d scarcely know,
Whose path and mine diverged in ways I never could have guessed.
Were those my finest hours
In the west?
One day I’ll pack a suitcase, buy a ticket, catch a plane
Cross sea and seven time-zones, leave this unplanned place behind,
Saddle up the buckskin pony who’s been waiting in my mind
And take the lonely trail. Down in the dust I’ll leave my pain
And from all my endless striving I will find a lasting rest
In green grass and fair flowers
In the west.
I’ve been reading Robert Service’s Songs of a Sourdough and wanted to try writing something in similar vein. In particular, I wanted to play around with a refrain line, even though it sounds a bit quaint these days. I enjoy finding the space within strict rhyme and metrical schemes: another symptom of my need for boundaries, and even stronger urge to kick against them! N.
A Charm Against Ye Knavish Trick-or-Treaters
Attend ye, this All Hallows’ Eve,
Heed this warning: take thy leave,
Get ye hence, touch not this door,
Retrace thy steps, disturb no more
Our sweet repose at close of day.
Thou art not welcome, go thy way.
Thy witch’s hat and monster mask
Shall not avail thee: prithee ask
Not here for toothsome snacks or sweets –
Demand elsewhere thy tricks or treats.
For in this house a creature lies
With sharp white teeth and burning eyes.
Flee while ye may, rouse not his wrath
And take again thy homeward path.
Be ye not heard, be ye not seen
Within our bounds this Hallowe’en.
A year later, it still makes me smile. N.
The day that I left, I came out here
Alone, to the woods. As I stared
Through the trees, felt the summer breeze stirring,
I gazed into myself and declared:
“Don’t ever forget where you come from:
This new life that you’re ready to start
Will be full of things trying to persuade you
They’re important. Stay true to your heart
And this place: what’s around you now matters:
It’s unchanging and won’t let you down.
So remember – these trees, fields and hedgerows
Will be here when the bright lights of town
Have grown dim, and you’re starting to wonder
Why the cash and the company car
Aren’t enough to make life worth the living
And you’re no longer sure who you are.”
And I proved myself right. So I come back
When I can, just to walk here, and grieve
For that lost self – the boy from the country
Who, in truth, never wanted to leave.
Went for a long walk with the whippet yesterday in some beautiful woods not far from my parents’ place. Haven’t been there in ages, but it was just like old times – in so many ways. N.
For two long years he hunted them
All through the watching wood;
Two years of coming oh-so-close
But not quite coming good.
His searing speed and sighthound’s gaze
Frustrated at the last
By the quarry taking to the trees
Like topmen up the mast.
A hunting-dog deprived, denied
His dream; the primal thrill
Of satisfying ancient lusts:
The chase. The catch. The kill.
Until, one dull grey afternoon
He passed us, in full cry,
A dozen feet to every stride –
We saw the dead leaves fly
As, suddenly, he jinked and swerved
And darted to the right,
And by a stand of silver birch
He made the lethal bite.
Oh, that he’d slain the noble hart,
Run Reynard to defeat!
A rabbit, even – that at least
We could have cooked to eat.
But no. He turned and, head held high
Accepted our applause,
With triumph blazing in his eyes –
And a squirrel in his jaws.
A silly ballad about our stupid dog – a little metrical therapy to end a weary day. N.