The last time I saw you, corroded
man of metal, manoeuvring your mortal
shell over tarmac, cyber sun sparked body
-work so blinding you didn’t see me
at the window sipping Irn Bru. Your brittle head
shadowed by your Panama, dipped dead-pan,
you looked like an Italian film
director shooting the scandalous
biopic of an unknown Nazi. My father,
forged by Stalin’s Holodomor,
man of steel with the ability
to change shape, become uniform,
less liable to crack
the annealing boy with a sword.
Such handsome cheek-bones.
They burned villages on the Western
Steppes belching black smoke
on the day paramilitary death squads
took photographs. I dreamed of you
behind the wheel of a red
Volkswagen Beetle your shame
-ful love of German engineering,
your welded lips breaking down,
reforming internal shapes under
pressure like Swarfiga green
jelly in a tub. You held out one
giant hand scarred by hundreds
of burns, carved deep,
never given a chance to heal
working fourteen hour shifts
at the foundry. Get on board, you said.
Words stuck in your throat
when they took your rotten teeth
out. You coughed blood and lies
into a white handkerchief,
pretended to hang yourself with a jump.
Freedom is a gift not for Everyman.
You were someone else in 1947,
metal pushed through a die.
No-one knows the people of bone
or why my drunken grandpa brought them home
from an auction room on Goldspink Lane,
shipyard wages blown
on beer, cigarettes and porcelain.
Their unexpected arrival, smooth and brittle,
put grandma in a flutter
flapping about with her feather duster,
finding the best place for aristocracy.
The old king with daughter at his knee
and her lover, typecast, ensnared eternally
by some secret quandary,
unaware of their position,
On a white cherry blossom day
I sipped cider with my lover on Goldspink Lane
while Player’s No 6 sucked grandpa away,
left grandma alone with royalty.
No-one knows their story, how it ends.
They hover inside my door, uninvited,
the bone people atop the tall cabinet
next to the clock.
I make my entrances
looking up as I pass by.
Note 1:- The subject of this statue remains a mystery. The figures appear mythological or Shakespearean. The object is about 18 inches tall and is made from Parian Ware, a type of bisque porcelain imitating marble. The material was popular for sculpture in Victorian times and was developed around 1845 by the Staffordshire pottery manufacturer Mintons. It was named after Paros, the Greek island renowned for its fine-textured, white marble. It was prepared in a liquid form and cast in a mould, therefore suitable for mass production.
Storm broke orange cloves over Orkney. ‘Stop your moaning, Mother’, Dorothy scooped porridge into two porcelain bowls, poured coffee. Another morning of sobbing, droning noise flowed from Mother’s open mouth. ‘Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh …’ Soft sounds so soothing for Mother, now mourning son Tom, so overwhelming for Dorothy. ‘Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh’.
Tom drowned into moon shadows, one of numerous boys lost, lonely boys longing for turquoise pools who took rough roads. Our boys journeyed to consult Oracle One, Cloud Four. No-one found comfort, only old stones, confusion, sore bottoms or cold oatmeal. Oracle One enjoyed comedy. Oracle One roared, jolly from beyond mountain tops.
Down below, smoke rose from glowing bonfires of Stroma. Hope smouldered for mothers who understood abandonment. Outside melancholy cottages on the shore, words floated unspoken.
Note 1:- Cold Oatmeal is an example of a univocal poem, that is, each word contains the same vowel, in this case the letter ‘o’.
Note 2:- The small island of Stroma lies just off the north coast of Scotland. It is part of the Orkney Islands and was abandoned by most of the population in the 1960s. The lighthouse keepers and their families were the last ones to leave in 1997. There are nothing but sheep on the island today. The reasons for the abandonment were mainly economic.