Weekend Poetry: Four Suffolk Poems
The Starlings at Semer Church
It is still not known
how the birds became so lost,
or cold, or cowed;
why they took refuge
in the highest place
but that initial sight of them,
as he clambered
to inspect the bells
was to shock him for an age.
That they had remained
was a comfort,
but the stillness,
and amount (it took three bags
to carry them down)
settled in his dreams.
A day for testing chime
saw him lifting up
feel each stalk of neck flop back.
Perhaps the cause:
a dusky murmuration.
All of them, so exalted
by the swoop
they charged the bell tower’s
open arches in a rush.
Or maybe it took four strays,
their yellow beaks tap-tapping
at the bronze,
calling the flock to come.
However they arrived, they stayed.
At ease with the brush of rising
souls against their wings.
He hopes they trilled on Sundays
as the parish nestled into pews. Little birds
of the belfry, rejoiced in private hymn.
You packed with some certainty:
toy fox, binoculars,
I hold your hand on the path,
recall when here was wilder.
No posts bearing blue arrows,
no designated trail.
I’d come with my sister
and brothers -
oblivious to Goat’s-beard,
Colt’s Foot, Hoary Ragwort -
all around us the stuff of spells.
Our parents let us go
to scamper into darker pockets,
leap from stumps lush with moss.
Everything aloof about me
fell into the soil
once charged with younger siblings
and freedoms of a wood.
Now here you are, with your pen,
keen to label each bird’s call.
I give you a damp valley floor, daughter.
Watch you nascent on the loam.
(Dean, 32, Lime Plasterer)
All the stories are here.
You take off the old,
and what crumbles
uncovers birds, coins,
hats rested for centuries.
where men before you
paused in equal summer heat,
because it taxes the limbs
this work; circumference of a wrist
bearing the weight of wet lime,
with hair, chalk, water.
How benign plaster looks -
sludge of its cream
but it has burned,
too long on your palms.
The minor cargo of tools:
trowels, small and worn-in,
biddable to the veer
as the building pulls you
around its frame. This is method
old as fable: a scratch coat’s
score of lines for key,
the seeming ease
with which you sweep.
it is still my favourite thing
(for J & R)
When you see the child I feed, hold
and steer towards her seventh year,
such tasks are not new to me.
I tell you I have step-children
but the fact they can’t be seen, here at the swings,
means they’re too far to seem real.
Rather than persist with the complex story
of how I came to love them,
I’ll take you on a necessary quest into the city -
going underground and over, heading east
into the bustle, to see their beautiful liberated limbs
so far from playgrounds now.
I was not the vessel for their birth so their beauty
is a thing I can unashamedly announce.
They flourished from the mould of their mother,
what they gleaned from her features clear enough
to catch their father’s breath. Perhaps
there is too much to explain, how I have these
young adults in my life, that I was present
for every single day they went to school.
But I want you to notice them.
The way they brush against each other
as they talk, and it is still my favourite thing,
to see them emerge in the grown shape
of their bodies, at ease in this city’s crowds,
waving and walking towards me.
- Rebecca Goss has two volumes of poetry to her name, The Anatomy of Structures and Her Birth, which was shortlisted for The Forward Prize and won the poetry section of The East Anglian Book Awards. In 2013, she return to live in Suffolk where she grew up.
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