Saturday, 30 April 2016

Poetry Never Fails Unlike my Mother's Cooking....

I've been having a crisis of writing these last few months.

It's been a time of word barrenness due to high stress and balls of anxiety nestling in my belly. This is not unusual I expect... Graham Greene famously used dream journaling as a way to move through his creative blockages.

I use napping. Afternoon snoozes, windows flung wide open to the smells and scents of burgeoning Spring trees ripe with underground life. What better metaphor for that poem that you know is biding its time. The words still shyly waiting in the corner of school halls waiting to be asked to dance. Each one beautiful, perfect but not yet noticed.

I haven't written a decent poem in quite a while. And I know they've been there. They skulk and shift in my mind. And sometimes I get a glimpse of them smiling patiently.

So when I woke up this still-light evening, Beltane Eve, still groggy from that kind of nap you're not even sure you've had - just a soggy pillow as evidence that you did, indeed, sleep. And a first line was waiting for me, I had that profound sense of relief you feel when you finally get home after a long time away. That feeling of sinking into a lover's arms who knows you - REALLY knows you.

So here she is. I love it when my mum visits me in my writing. It's never an affront and always a wonderful welcome flash of recognition. My childhood memories are few and hazy so when one reaches out to meet me halfway, it feels so right...

My mum would put a whole tin
of baked beans in her cottage pie -
Fry off the mince in lard, add onions,
never garlic, and maybe, if a special dinner,
a freshly opened packet of Colmans
seasoning entitled 'Cottage Pie’,
sprinkled with intention.
She had a deep pyrex dish kept especially,
(although occasionally it was used for roast potatoes,
that never worked - she never learned that the secret
of decent, crispy on the outside, fluffy in the middle,
roasted potatoes, is a single layer).
She spooned in her mincey bean concoction
using the same tablespoon I now have in my drawer.
On top, the mashed potato, not creamy
but skimmed milk lumpy and if the week’s diet had gone well
a grated thin scatter of red leicester.
At 4.30, we sat down, she, me and my sister,
just us three, awkwardly spaced at the bench set.
Low fat gravy pre-whisked in a plastic jug
gluggled over our nursery tea.