House - Poem by Sheena Blackhall
Dust-dry dung, small wisps of broken straw
Had blown and settled into the cracked green door,
Where wood grain deepened like the wrinkled skin
Of some old hand held out against intruders.
The handle rattled, job-lot plastic, cheap;
Odd screws secured it insecurely.
Mice slipped easily into this afterthought of a house
Tagged on to the creaking farmhouse gable –
Outpost of a farmer's rustic empire.
Ivy spread its small green roofs of leaves on every stone;
Fee'd men like seasons flitted through its rooms.
Entering was stepping into
Smells of matchsticked logs
Oozing their sticky sap beside the hearth;
And human smells of sweat and drying clothes,
Of muddy boots, baking like tarry dough beside the fire;
The rug's far corner nibbled by tiny teeth.
Odd mugs, odd plates, odd seats;
Two armchairs patched and peeling:
A junk-shop squirrel-hoard of shoddiness.
One unused room, half-walled by glass, lay bare,
Facing the silent fields of clammy wetness
Carved by the slicing blade of the ruthless plough;
One glass-eyed wall, firm and sullen,
Facing the low, dark hill with its huddled cattle.
Within the house's heart, near to the spitting fire,
My husband would talk and talk.
We were new to marriage, as shop shoes
Not fitting quite, not twelve months wed.
Pretending to feed the cat,
Connecting door agape, a pool of light
Flung down like a yellow stain,
I sat, through in the glass-walled room
That separate, silent chamber, cool and distant,
Barely aware of his mutterings of the day:
The tractor that stuck in the nether park,
The saw that broke on Easter Ordie's oak,
The pheasant that he'd winged by Leezie's loch.
I hardly heard his munchings and unwindings,
Like a run-down clock
Wearied out with the nuts and bolts of labour;
His clatterings of cutlery, his rustlings of paper,
The small domestic noises of a home.
Through in the glass-wall room,
I sat, listening with the corn's ear
For the grasses' whispering,
Watching the dykeside bushes move in the moonlight,
Watching the white oats stirring in the field.
At night the stars walked into that unlit room
Hard on the heels of gloaming: hushed guests
Each bearing a tiny glimmering candle.
For here the distance from the sky, the woods, the land
Was wafer-thin, a lamina where real and unreal met.
The neighbouring heavens pressed
Against the window's brittle panes, impatient to get in.
I spread my arms to catch a shard of moon;
My husband broke a stick to feed the fire.
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