I thought I’d celebrate Easter by posting two poems which are based on my own family experiences, the death of my father and a more lighthearted look at an incident in the life of my grandfather. The poems were originally written a couple of years ago, though they refer to events much longer ago than that. Anel Viz did some wonderful beta work on them for me but I have since changed them slightly again. The first was simply something I ‘needed’ to write. The second was in response to a prompt (‘shoes’) in a writing magazine which instantly transported me to my childhood.
Death of a beekeper.
In the morning he collected the bees.
He waved goodbye to her and drove some miles,
Listened to advice he didn’t need (he had two hives
Already) and set out for home.
But in the car, somehow they got out,
Crawled everywhere: pedals, seats, gear lever, steering wheel,
Buzzing softly in counterpoint to the engine.
They didn’t sting…knew their new protector, perhaps.
Still, it was hot
And the windows had to stay tight wound.
In the evening, he had a class to take.
He waved goodbye to his wife and drove a mile or two,
Talked to the confirmation group,
Readied them for the laying on of hands.
Then he prepared the church for Sunday,
Straightened the cross and candlesticks,
Checked the flower water.
His heart stopped then;
(They said), so he wouldn’t have felt the pain.
But when instead of his car
She heard police wheels buzzing on the gravel,
Her pain was enough for both of them.
Next day a friend,
Fellow vicar and fellow bee keeper, came,
Driving a few miles to commiserate.
He visited the hives to tell the bees about the death.
Bees need to know such things.
And once they understood, although they’d only known him for a day,
They buzzed their sorrow to the warm autumn sun.
Every night we would lay them
Lined up for inspection beside the scullery door.
If anyone forgot there would be a shocked whisper:
Don’t you need them clean for tomorow?
Grandpa would assault them with oxblood polish
And a soft brush until they shone with love.
It was no use buying beige, tan or even chestnut;
In the end all reached a state of rich mahogany.
One day a tramp came knocking.
A bite to eat, Missus? Or a shilling for the road?
He was all tatters and flaps;
His feet scuffed on the ground through worn spaces.
Grandpa brought him a pair no-one wore.
They fitted well enough.
He ate his bowl of soup, admiring them with a sly glance.
Sit down, Man! I’ll polish them before you go!
And so he sat and Grandpa knelt,
Worked with the oxblood and brush
Until even the tongues gleamed,
And the difficult seams where the uppers meet the soles.
When he had done, the tramp thanked him,
Abruptly, quietly, and rose.
On the way he murmured,
‘But he didn’t polish the eyelet holes.’
Seriously slighted? Or making slanted fun
Of all the fuss over a new-old pair of shoes?
No-one would ever know, but Grandpa’s laughter
Followed him down the country road.
And I remember Grandpa telling the tale of the eyelet holes
To anyone who’d listen, for weeks and weeks,
And then he’d shake his head and ask
If we’d all remembered to bring him our shoes.
Comments welcome, as usual!