A Christmas Poem in November?
I wrote this poem in 1995 and had omitted the key line about poets for fear of offending my father.
Now he has been gone 13 years so probably safe to reveal what the poem about.
After my father died in 2004 my mother confided to me that he had always ‘feared I was gay’ even when I spent seven years living with a Spanish woman…..such is the rural Oxfordshire psyche I suppose. Anyway here the finally rewritten (a couple of lines) poem about the trials of being a Berkshire Ruralist:-)
Wrestling with a young fir’s stubborn trunk
On an exposed north-facing hillside
Two weeks before Christmas, sleet, wind biting,
The spires of Oxford blurring in the storm
My father’s hands, hard, chapped, red-raw
Bend the tree over until the roots snap.
The red-faced farmer stands, biding his time
Then says ‘Poet is he.. they’re all gay or dead’
Silent we trudge back through rows of young firs
Past a tethered collie, collapsing tin sheds.
At the end of a gravel road worn to clay
We clamber inside my dad’s builder’s truck
In the cab, steamy with opened flasks
Radio Oxford blaring out the traffic report
He carefully shakes ice off his jacket
As I scrape frozen mud off my boots
Visiting for the day, not dressed for fields
My Levis are slaked with straw and muck.
He sets the windscreen wipers beating
And a ledge of ice builds up on the hood then melts.
Distances open up and close through low cloud
As cooling-tower steam collapses like a veil over our home-town
The Down-land swims like a saucer of cat’s milk in the rain
As I try and grip a hot mug of tea with cold hands.
Still silent my father sips his tea and stares
through the pine trees and away from the farm.
I feel awkward, pick at the flakes of ice on my sleeve
As the motor turns and we lurch down the track.
He has ten years more hard labour to do.
Excavating then replacing soil across this county.
I have ten years of unfulfilled promises and high hopes to go.
Before I crash back into these muddy fields and the land buries him.
Dedicated to Ivo Belcher 1932-2004 and the un-named Fat Farmer with the conservative views 🙂