In The Shape - Poem by Tony Jolley
This was written as I saw it happen on a No6 bus to the train station in Bournemouth on 6th Nov '03. Oh, and the 'JT' is James Taylor and the 'Shape of a Heart' song is Jackson Browne....
They sat opposite me, ‘side by each’ as JT might have observed,
The young mother, perhaps 20,
Her daughter, maybe 9 months
Cosied in pink Parka and pushchair
She was almost at the last stop on the Sleep Express:
Eyes barely open,
Widening a fraction
Only in response to the bus’
Steep right hand turns,
Chattering change machine
And raucous air brakes and doors.
At one particularly loud and unwelcome interruption,
Shocking her to wakefulness
Her arm stretched left across her mother: a signal –
A left turn to reassurance and comfort.
A single finger found her palm
And she closed her tiny fist around it:
Safe; secure; certain.
The relief spread to her features
And her windows on the world saw their heavy drapes slowly drawn.
So right, yet worthy of remark.
Wouldn’t one expect
A mother’s wagon train
To form its surrounding circle
About the most defenceless young settler
In her land
And not the other way around?
Gradually (it took three stops)
The slumber suffused her frame
And the increasing weight of her little arm
Overcame the weakening grip on her mother’s reality.
Such gentle parting brought neither sorrow nor disquiet,
For the impression, the image, the reassurance remained
…. In the shape…
I have to say it. I have to.
Have to interrupt the flow, the story, the very last line.
Do you know how hard I tried to struggle
Against the urge to write:
“In the shape of a heart”?
How the luscious lyric and melody
Invade my creative consciousness?
How much I want to give myself over to it
And all its precious connotations and associations?
I even wondered if I should tell you at all.
But I have.
Was I right?
…. In the shape….
….. in the shape of a hollow fist.
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