Friday, March 24, 2006

Prose Poem #1.

Lit (NB. This has been published)


Robert L Fielding

A book of verse, once opened, leads me through a life that is half over. Innocent and hearty, I read Lewis Carroll, wondering if I would ever see the Jabberwock with eyes aflame on my way home from school on those winter evenings when ice and darkness enveloped my path up the hill to the dancing fire and the roasting smell of my mother's cooking.
Later, standing in rows, our neckties strangling us, we sang,
'Who is Sylvia, what is she?
without wondering in the slightest who Sylvia was, or what she was. We just presumed she was a girl and left it at that. Singing by rote, high and straining to reach Mrs. Smith playing the piano, her face grimacing at our reckless rendering of her favourite song.
And later, listening to 'I wandered lonely as a cloud', we started to hear the words and see the daffodils waving beneath us. All was forgotten though, when, as pupils in pride of place in Miss Schofield's English class, we had to read the words out loud to the whole class, listening and giggling till it was their turn.
With Dot Squash, and later with Fez, we trod the paths through Hardy's Wessex, waited on Egdon Heath with Eustacia Vye for her wild love, Damon Wildeve, come in secret from the tavern below.
Fez, Donald Radcliffe, Mr. Radcliffe to our parents, Sir to us who even adoring him and his booming voice, were petrified when we had somehow annoyed him, Fez made Weatherbury live, made Gabriel Oak a real person to us, and Bathsheba Everdene a real woman, vivacious with a mind of her own, headstrong, some said foolish, and passionate.
Dot Squash, Dorothy Schofield, Miss to us, apples of her scolding eye. She led us, walking alongside Tess to her doom, stopped us from berating Angel Clare for his purity and his foolish, pious pride, remonstrated with us for asking the question, "Miss, didn't Thomas Hardy ever write happy stories?" What did we know of Greek tragedy, or any other kind of tragedy, save one of our number running under the wheels of a car one afternoon after school.
Years later, still reading, though with a more alert eye, enjoying less for not being taken in as much, but still enjoying, I traversed a purple moor, stepped through heather and ling, waist deep bracken to a little house on the edge of Egdon Heath, whistling Holst's tune of the same name, I came to Clym and Eustacia's house in the woods. Admiring it through the lens of my Minolta, shutter clattering up and down gaily in the late summer sunshine, a little head poked through a bedroom window, and apologizing for intruding, was invited in to see for myself, Alderworth, the house where the newly weds dwelt before everything started going wrong, Eustacia finally and tragically realizing she had fallen in love with a man who did not exist, the native returned to his heath, but now, after his wandering days were done, content to practise the work of a furze cutter, and the beautiful but willful Eustacia, her raven haired, proud head leaning into the wind coming off the English Channel, dreaming of lands she would never see.
Working up to examinations, looking at university entrance, Shakespeare in hand, the Scottish play, which, not being in the acting profession, we can call by name, 'Macbeth'. Selling petrol at weekends to stay at 'Tech' till I passed, memorizing the 'dagger soliloquy between cars, for Mrs. Christou, who encouraged us with her enthusiasm and her joie de vivre, and her laughing face.
Mr. McCann, a Scot, who did the Guardian Cryptic Crossword everyday whilst eating his sandwiches, leading us slowly through Burns' 'Tam o' Shanter', the words, the accent, the meaning, coming in his rich, ringing tones beneath his bristling moustache.
Discovering Kipling, Wordsworth, and Robert Service in the hushed, warm stillness of the Municipal Library, the monologues of 'Nosmo King', Stanley Holloway breathed out on cold mornings cycling to work, each word visible as if I had been exhaling smoke.
The trustees from the toolroom where I worked, wondering about a turner who read poetry in his breaktimes, instead of The soaraway Sun. Struggling with Thomas Mann, wondering if I should even be trying. A different perspective has its distractions and its detractors, all around me it seemed at times till my sister, Gill, my sister, reassured me that what I wanted to do was worth doing.
And now, writing words of my own, the long journey still not half done, thank God, retracing my steps through Central Asia, recalled to life, Sultan Sancar, and the love of his life, Yasemin, mourning her father, newly buried beneath the hard ground of Mary, across the wastes of Turkoman country, to the land of Anatolia, high, stony, beautiful Anatolia, and to Nazan.

Robert L Fielding


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