and in the shop…
YouTube poetry p f playlist: Vicky Wilson reading Counting the Strokes
I don’t remember what it was that set us off,
exploding in the silent space, bent double with laughter,
ignoring the attendant with the missing button who said there was no
accounting for taste as we squealed and shook, stood watching
as we fumbled for change. I do remember it looked like a field.
I remember not thinking of what might lie beneath the surface.
And then the puzzled frown on my father’s face
turned to hurt as my mother and I continued to scoff
at his choice of outing, drowned his talk of felled
forests and prehistoric graves with our laughter,
gasping and heaving and spluttering, then watching
as he walked away, seeking but finding no
trace of the expected remains. Did he know
our sobs and snorts were less a slap in the face
than a desire to claim a rare shared ground? Each of us always watching
for a chance to destabilise the family triangle, to see off
the weakest side, using mockery and laughter
to rock confidence, to unlevel the field.
Or were we just laughing at a man in a field
searching for the meaning of life among the dead? I know
it comforted him to think that four thousand years after
graves were dug and bodies buried, bones stripped bare, faces
long forgotten, angry gods appeased by offerings,
here we stood, survivors of the human race. Watching
the birds flying from tree to ancient tree, watching
the wind still stirring the branches, in this field
we endured. It was his offer
of hope, a hymn to human resilience. No
need to think of individual loss, to face
the emptiness. So why our laughter?
I think now that our sobs and snorts of laughter
were our bid to hold the future at bay: the night-long watch,
the silent waiting room, the blank faces
of strangers, the almost field
studded with neat stones stretching into a no
man’s land, the slow walk away, the wake, the send-off…
I wish I saw no need to mine this surface, to question this laughter.
But I can’t back off – even though no
one else is left to watch. Why can’t a field be just a field?
Grimes Graves: despite its name, the Neolithic site is not a burial ground
but an ancient flint mine