Wednesday, 20 April 2016

BLACK CLAY (poem) (c) James WF Roberts

(c) James WF Roberts

Black clay
holds firm in my adolescent hands
warm and writhing; as it slips through
my fingertips.

The grey dirt,
the black clay, that stilted
salty smell of the soil
of the breeze, jasmine in the trees
off my in my own little world.

Big brother’s trying to teach me how
to kick that strange oval ball, again.
telephone rings
worst day
only one I truly remember.
Grandfather comes outside
Bro’s wrestled me to the ground,
I can’t play football, so now I’m the
baby brother, punching bag.

He’s on that dark brown, almost black brick
stoop, the white outside alcove, just near
the wooden picnic table and the green plastic
Venetian curtain—and the cord, been tied up
by siblings and cousins alike.

It’s a Saturday most important
football day of the year,
he looks at us with is shock of auburn hair
that once was as bright, as red as mine.
Those menacing, thick and heavy eye-brows

“Your father’s dead.
Come inside. Morning tea time”.
And my brother runs. My thirteen year old brother
scales the wrought iron and sheet metal back fence,
down the road and toward the coast.

So much for the week at Grandpa’s house,
playing pool, the returned Serviceman’s club,
the beach ten mins away on foot. Or a train to the city
if we were, very, very good.
We’re burning through this autumn night
mounting the curb, almost hitting bins
and mail-boxes. You’ve not long shot up,
and I’ve been up four days doing a Dylan Thomas
impression. I keep trying to grab the wheel,
and I keep praying that your body, an hour ago
wasn’t my last meal.
You tell me to close my eyes,
“I’ve got a surprize”
And I’m terrified.
The car stops and we get out
your hand in my hand, always felt so warm,

I open my eyes and here we are
standing in my late Grand-father’s front yard
same old unit, 
same smell of Jasmine you always loved
but there’s new people here

a family, not an old man,
car in the drive, he never owned one.
Just the same black clay,
the same grey dirt.
You ask me again to relive that day
twenty years, exactly to the day  

my father died, you got married.
We walked your dog, arm in arm
along the coast, along the borders of
cockle-littered sand and that thick black clay.
Now ghosts of past encounters

linger, leave a shadow across my broken bed
I sleep more in my chair, or during the day,
night is when the shadows play
night is when the torment lingers
like faded whispers, across the edges
of my vanity.

Peter gave Christ,
more respect, more dignity
than you could afford me,
when the cock crowed three times

But now my memories
are nothing more than
those faint traces of black clay
all those strains sifting through
my fingers…

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