Today – a poem. This is one a wrote for uni but it never made the grade. It is a memoir poem. Enjoy. 🙂
Bullet and Rose
You have never seen darkness
until it is night on a small boat
in the middle of the sea.
The water is inky black
moving sinuously as a snake
caught under a sheet of midnight.
White peaks contrast to the stygian deep.
All I can hear is rhythmic slapping
and banging of water
as it moves against the bow.
No engine. The ropes
thud against the taut sails
and I even feel a rhythm in the wind.
The sea is lifted in the breeze and splashes me softly.
I taste salt.
The cold is numbing but somehow comforting.
Wrapped in jumpers and waterproofs
I watch the horizon. Waiting.
The smells of the sea fill me.
Salt and more. Like trips, long forgotten,
with pails and spades: sand and seaweed.
To me the sea smells alive, and tonight
it appears to be a living breathing thing.
The wind blows and for a moment
the clouds clear and we are sailing through stars
as they reflect on the inky water.
Then they are gone.
I look down again at my carefully constructed rose and wait.
Fold, tear, fold, crease, unfold.
Slowly in my hand the flower took shape;
Silver and gold and glitter and sparkle
in the running lights.
So pretty, yet nothing more than sweet wrappers.
Until finally a rose,
beautiful in its imperfection
and heavy in its emotion, sat in my palm.
No scissors have touched it;
irregular petals reveal torn edges,
and its base is crudely twisted to hold the flower.
Looking up I stare into the night
Then I see it. The lights. But I’m confused.
It sits like a barnacle on a hull.
Not some beautiful place of remembrance
but an industrial monstrosity.
Sadness spills out of me.
As a child I remember a brass cylinder.
I loved this trinket sitting on the pine dresser.
Every year it would get polished
and once I was old enough it became my job.
I still remember taking the dull metal
and smearing the white thick liquid on and waiting,
only to wipe it off and reveal a perfect shine.
I loved the smell, acrid and tangy.
Brassy. And I remember the story. Fred.
I suppose he would have been my great-uncle,
but I just called him Fred.
Stories of his bravery, staying behind,
sacrificing himself for others.
A sniper. A soldier.
And in my childish hand a bullet casing.
To this day I don’t know where the bullet came from,
just that it was inexorably linked
in my childish mind to Fred.
I can still feel its brassy coldness in my hands
and the love in my heart.
Now, older, I sit
on the hard wood of the boat
and look across at Dunkirk.
The stories of bravery and of sacrifice,
of ordinary people saving those trapped
in boats no bigger than this.
So I take my rose and childhood memories
and place them gently onto the black,
my breath catching as the cold clutches my hand.
I watch as it glitters and glints with running lights
and just for a moment it floats among the stars
until it slips beneath the waves.
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