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ELEGY

This elegy has been written by Joe Winter, Asphodel's elder son

 

After five years I seem to know you less.

Still we meet as before, and still you see

exactly where I am. Again you bless

my birth, my mother. Still you welcome me

and start the meeting with such tenderness,

I seem to know my special history

on Earth. But then an absence. We address

the conversation in a minor key.

It is because we do not meet on Earth

at all. And still you bless me. Now my dear,

if you are lost to me, past death and birth,

yet where we meet is neither there nor here.

And if I bless you too in my unworth,

by a remembrance, still we may be near.

*

Not death, not birth. A vivid sensible thing,

clearer and closer than I knew before.

It is you to the quick. How can a trite rhyme

brim with youth's energy, and carry more

unseen, the lock and key of age's store?

But that a poem is a remembering,

that makes a case for the precious things of time,

word-woven, with a wordless strengthening.


Enter my poem. I see a sixteen-year-old girl

I never knew, who had run away from home,

shout joy for Stalin. I see the glint of a pearl

in every word I hear. A quick concern

for others of all sorts. I see her roam

the city, with her mind on a slow burn.

 

Restless within. Prowling forward, the past

in fragments of broken glass, a wind too wild

shrieking out of old voices, a shadow passed

in need of warmth, from too much hurt as a child.

It slipped from hostel to workplace, bus to train,

into the traffic of day arriving late,

yet quickening soon. A slight spatter of rain,

a roving intent, a streamlet in full spate.

 

Yours was a mind that never learned to hate,

a spirit that struck out at the dark and cold,

by offering some a lightness with their fate,

and shelter to other souls when you were old.

Young in London now you shed your cares

with poetry, conversation, and love affairs.

 

Cut to mid-stream. A journalist in Kent,

a Labour Councillor, a mind inspired

by prehistoric sites, a warmth that lent

itself to all, a humorous, slightly tired

woman in touch with time and the event.

A link upon a necessary chain,

who seemed to know the pace at which things went,

and that the day does not come round again.

 

From you I learned to rest against the grain

of day. The crease of work became my home.

The dreamer's airy mantle that had lain

on a youth's shoulders, promising to become

a leaden weight, was finely whipped away.

I saw I had a bill or two to pay.

Later you taught me more - still not by telling.

The lesson was the life. You were at war

with dogma - a magnificent rebelling

of the atom in the compound. To abhor

cruelty of all sorts - and more, to fight

for women, a good soldier, was your calling.

The goddess Hochma touched you with her light,

and you were her. And still the light is falling.

 

Mother, I loved you best in your old age.

Open to all, intuitive and kind,

for a finer time to come you set the stage.

A number were refreshed and re-defined

by the power of knowing you. Alight so long,

you made the human element more strong.

*

After five years I seem to know you more.

Still we meet as before, but now I see

the generous secrecy of Time restore,

within a simple tribute, you to me.

For set outside the accidental law

of ordinary circumstance, and free

of birth and death, of after and before,

there is a realm, it seems, where all can be,


Still I have lost you. Only in art's unravelling,

beyond the moment when all is less clear,

can I trace you now. A few poor lines, fresh-marvelling

at the shape of a fire, are all that hold you here.

Yet if I read, then through the lines sure-travelling,

your shade is with me still, or precious near.

 

 

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