My Mother’s Poetry
had the structure of housework
broadcast each day, except Sunday,
in rigid metre, in pinny and scarf.
No radio presence interrupted
her contemplation of metaphors,
her broad sideboard surface the world’s
acres covered in dust and anguish.
She figured-eighted a yellow duster
to deal with dust, extinguished
the anguish in small measures
of listening and compassion,
an unknown natural healer.
Each day’s dinner preparations
made her rich ; her casseroles
of mince and peas and carrots,
bubbling sluggishly in rich gravy,
made her treasure her
personal wealth in a poor world.
Cleaning the mess, messing the clean,
her recipe for good living.
Small philosophies in a good mind
tamed by family ; each child
a promise of life after death,
each meal a down payment.
My Mother’s Art
was cubism in gingham squares,
lined up so neatly the illusion
of two planes on a flat surface
puzzled the eyes, caused
a squint, a closer look, a touch.
Pin, cut, mark out, pin, tack, sew,
a crisp cotton dress on my back,
skimming my calves, smelling of sun,
lemon and white, a uniform defied.
My mother’s art was de Stijl,
soft cotton gathered in vertical folds
on which a map, streets and buildings,
in red and blue and yellow tacks
appeared, and people made of
embroidery silk, crossed or dotted
for variety; my mother never heard
of Mondrian but, in a broad way,
could boogie with needle and silk.
Just once he brought Aunt Rose
in his dull green Morris Minor,
like a proper chauffeur,
opening her door,
offering an arm,
not quite tipping his forelock
but walking two steps behind.
He was handsome, soft spoken,
soft footed,watchful all the time.
We sisters bristled for no reason
we knew, sensed an actor
in full fussing flow; he knew it,
eye-flashed us a clear warning
Don’t get in my way. Don’t upstage me.
He charmed the two women,
my mother, my Aunt Rose.
Is that what ‘simpering’ was -
two grown women writhing,
hands clasped, shoulders twisting ?
He praised the biscuits, the teapot,
the furniture, the view, the women.
When he said he was emigrating,
described his prospects,
Aunt Rose shuddered,
My mother was envious,
we sisters raised a silent cheer,
‘Good riddance’ we mouthed
across the littered tea table
Did we know, guess he was gay ?
Years later, when Aunt Rose died,
leaving her pearls and brooches to Mother,
she told us that Cyril had got the money,
That Church of England, Conservative
Aunt Rose had bankrolled Cyril the gay teacher
which redeemed her, if not him, in our eye
Three Toy Shops
Malta - 1950s
Down the curving marble stairway,
two doors down Prince of Wales Road,
three steps up to a cavern of kites
hanging like technicolour bats,
tails bundled up in an elastic band.
I stood, a child of nine, silent in wonder,
imagining such a community
or kites must come alive each closing time
and fly up into the Mediterranean sky
there to share the night with bats and swifts,
before hanging again, swinging slightly,
in the shop.
Blimey - a toy shop
with a resident child psychologist.
Serious business, play - not to be
wasted, not to be noisy, not to be pointless.
Serious young assistants demonstrate
the worthy wooden toys which are :
age-appropriate, develop fine motor skills,
improve hand-to-eye co-ordination.
In the corner, by the exit, two five year olds
have found a packing box waiting for disposal.
It is, at the moment, a castle but will over the time
the adults confer, become a ship, a lorry and a cage.
Castle Douglas 2018
We have had to be fierce, it has taken some time
to be rid of the pink for Princesses, the blue of toys for boys,
we have mostly failed, but for a few exceptions where
a toy shop lights up the minds of child and adult with
the multi-coloured, multi-cultured, multi-inspirational
piles and shelves and boxes of things too many to list.
Go there, take your children, take your grandchidren,
wallow in their excitement, remember your own.
Vivien Jones lives on the north Solway shore in Scotland. She has two poetry collections and two short story collections in print, numerous inclusions in national and international anthologies, and has had work broadcast on Radio Scotland and Radio 4. In the last two years her focus has been on writing short plays (for which she won a national award) working with actors and directors to bring them to performance. She is one of three editors of Southlight literary magazine which is created in the south-west of Scotland where she lives. She is a Literature Ambassador for the Wigtown Book Festival Company, helping to make things happen on the literary scene and a frequent organiser of creative writing workshops in museums and galleries. When not writing she is a renaissance musician, playing and performing mainly on viols and recorders. Her most recent project is a collaboration with the Gracefield Art Gallery in Dumfries, leading a writing group responding with new texts inspired by artwork created in the last 70 years by women artists – the resulting exhibition of art and texts is open until August 24th.
e-mail : firstname.lastname@example.orgFacebook : https://www.facebook.com/vivien.jones1?