The Beginning - Poem by Stug Jordan
Three months had already been spent
When he read a newspaper for the date;
‘I thought tomorrow would have made three, ’ he went
On, and on, until the shadows in the late
Sun broadened, and he realised his watch
Had stopped. Perhaps he’d laid on it
In his sleep, perplexed the hands with his crotch
In another dream of homely habit.
The trees rake him out of the side of the road
Like a hawk clawing at a stranded toad,
White skies and black birds hollowed
Out of heaven, drawing him on, and on
As the fourth month pursues the third one gone,
And the third too tired to care that it’s followed.
The watch is laid to rest in a canvas bag,
On this anniversary of his departure,
‘A quarter of a year, ’ he yawns: the days drag
Slower in summer, the daily light’s aperture
Glowing through the overgrowth.
‘Come home, ’ her photograph silently implores,
‘I’m so alone.’ He knows: ‘you and me both.’
Their years together had passed by like meteors;
So close to earth, lost in the atmosphere:
He looks again, she says, ‘you should be here.’
He sleeps, and dreams, ‘I know, I know my dear.’
And morning is cold, grey entrails of wood
Send ash through the leaves of two oaks stood
Above a low tent, where ashes disappear.
Days pass him lengthways, like hours
Of continual traffic, as he huddles his thin
Sides whilst walking; vomiting in roadside flowers.
‘Please, please, no looks, ’ he says at the Inn
Door before he goes in: curious locals nod
Their enquiring eyes and curious heads
At a man so near to nature, so far away from god.
He sees the same announcement pencilled: ‘No Beds.’
He shuffles into the toilet for his morning shave;
‘No beds, ’ he laughs, ‘no life, no death, no grave! ’
The water shocks him, as if it was a wave,
Pipes clamouring for passage behind the tiles:
‘I think, today, I’ll aim for fifteen miles, ’
He says, ‘if the weather and the roads behave.’
The villages materialize from the black earth
Like flowers from the emptied coalmines.
Each one could be the place of his birth,
He thinks; it’s been so long since those road signs
Called him home, as invitations to start over again.
How eremitical it might be to wash
In the river, or strip to the socks in the rain
Rather than shivering filthy under a mackintosh.
He listens to the thuds of children and footballs
In undulance from over the garden walls,
Replaced in the evening by older kids’ catcalls
And slang profanities. He makes a cigarette
And listens to the hiss where the paper’s still wet;
Writing subdued memos to the dying day, words in blue scrawls.
Last night he was visited: maybe a fox
Had found him out; smelled the burned back bacon
In his black-bottomed pan, and left the heath’s flocks
Of sheep untouched. In the first week his stove was taken
In a similar common: ‘Who am I to scavenge from? ’
He laughs. The sun complies with a breakfast
Of wrinkled fruit: ‘I might have a little more than some, ’
He considers, as the morning’s shadows cast
Their hideous monument on the coming day.
He cultivates a midday meal of equivalent decay:
Cheap hard bread from a baker’s; a bouquet
Of bruised carrots; mandarins to put colour
Back into the day; an autumn portent of duller
Daybreaks, shorter evenings clouding the motorway.
And on, and on, he carves out a rambling passage
On his little earth; as cars steal weeks
On him, ploughing north through the dales’ dead silage.
The photograph he carries seems to speak
As the miles increase: ‘there’s no longer any home, ’
It even says now, a sadder, aging face now.
He listens to the distant bells of the church of St. Jerome
In the vale: ‘Home was never home, anyhow, ’
He says, ‘not then, not now; ’ as the slopes of old mines
Dispute his foothold, sepulchral coal-black shrines
Of England, a waste of land in gloomy anodynes.
And a man can be seen moving between the sheep
As the country closes its eyes and goes to sleep;
Fields darkening between the darker fences’ lines.
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