Doodles

The margins of all my lecture notes used to be full of doodles, usually faces. I wonder whether this is inherited – my mother often used to draw faces on random envelopes and other scraps of paper. You could tell if she had had a long chat on the phone, usually with my uncle, by the number of drawings she made. (Their chats tended to consist of him holding forth at length and her occasional ‘yes’, ‘of course’, ‘aha’, to let him know she was still there, sitting in the chilly hall where the phone lived. This was in the days when you answered the phone by reeling off the number: ‘Pontefract-two-double-five-four’.)

The same habit still resurfaces whenever I find myself at a meeting or something, listening, with a pen and a piece of paper to hand.

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2014/2015

In this northern hemisphere

these are the dark days.

So we dress the trees in lights.

Reach back to magic childhoods our parents made for us

and strive to recreate those (false?) memories for new generations.

But time moves on.

We hold wakes for the old year

and wish each other better in the new.

Sketchbook — New Year’s Eve at the pub:

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paying attention to the band
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a face in the crowd
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musicians
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conversation

Christmas memory

A long time ago, on a Christmas eve

(of a Christmas long forgotten)

awake in the sleeping house,

she crept downstairs to sit, curled in her father’s big chair in the dark,

beside the still warm Rayburn (opening the door a crack to let out the embers’ glow).

Watched the fire fade, breathed in the pine scent of the tree,

until it grew too cold.

Then slipped back up to bed again, and sleep,

till bright day.

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Copyright © 2014 Fliss Watts

Evocation – a draft of memory

Springsteen sings of The Wall

In memory of a country’s losses

And of his young heroes

But for me an image returns

Of my father, walking there

Half a lifetime ago,

Beside the mirroring stone

With its fringe of offerings,

remembrances.

What was he thinking?

A foreigner who had seen a different war.

I was too much a (twenty-something) child to ask.

Last offspring of aging parents,

How much I failed to ask,

Failed to imagine soon enough

That they were more than that,

More than the walls and windows of my home.

(It is so long ago

I did not know there were still tears to shed.)

1 June

The bereaved house stands, neglected, at the end of a short terrace. Paint peeling around its windows, a bright green sea of uncut grass washes around its feet, waiting for the mower to be repaired. And the garden climbs up the walls and fences – roses, clematis, honeysuckle, on the brink of flowering.

Beside the back door, tumbled but convenient, three small piles of coal, logs and kindling.

Inside the neglect is more ingrained, the natural state in a house of two men (father and son – ‘we were two peas in a pod’) not much interested in housework and decoration.

Habitual hands have left their marks, on door frames and light switches, dark stains of countless touches. Many shelves line a room, crammed with dusty books, on art and magic, history and nature – a life-time’s library.

The disorder of illness overlies it all – the bed in the sitting room, a table dismantled in an upstairs room to make way for it, a small pile of plastic bags hold his clothes brought home from the hospital.

‘Here’s a picture of my father…and the dog we had…’ wiping the murky glass with tender fingers as he takes it off the mantelpiece, leaving its shadow in the dust.

But on the wall above the displaced bed there is a picture, a painting in a gilded frame, of a glorious sunlit afternoon – it shines like a jewel in this gloomy room, as fresh as if it were painted yesterday. (Though it is decades old – ‘He wouldn’t let me sell that one.’)

Two great trees stand in a green pasture which runs down to a hidden river. Beyond, the bluer green of farther woods rises to a low horizon.  A black and white cow, three quick dabs of paint, repeats itself, moving slowly from left to right across the picture plane. Leaf shadows ripple blue on the warm tree trunks and the trees’ crowns reach up into a tumbling airy height of sky.

Like a window into shining memory, it redeems the room.

 

Copyright © 2014 Fliss Watts