Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Breaking Through

Escomb Saxon Church, built 670 AD, Co Durham, UK

I saw the mop of red hair first,
then the fierce look on his face,
like some angry Scot’s warrior
striding up to Hadrian’s Wall
with a heavy pack on his back,
determined to break through.
A slim pale blond teetered
a hundred yards behind him
lighting a cigarette –
jeans, t-shirt, no purse,
barely able to carry herself.

I wanted to pull over,
but the traffic pushed me along -
and my fear of the unknown;
dark imaginings, cowardly prudence.
I looked for them on my way home
and for places they might be;
a lance of memory piercing my heart,
visions of parking lots behind strip malls,
seedy motels near liquor stores -
old hunting grounds.

I saw them again the next week;
imagined more hidden shelters –
wanted to follow them, call someone,
get help, all the old impossible things.
At home after dinner, sitting at my desk,
waiting for a satellite image to focus,
I noticed the cloth doll with the missing leg
lying near the lamp, looking up at me,
mimicking Emily’s* question:
Aren’t you going to fix her leg?
I hadn’t noticed her Raggedy Ann redhead.

And there he was – on the screen –
the red haired warrior,
circling Saxon Green*, round and round,
searching for a gate through the wall
guarding the fortress of faith,
refuge from the fiery heap*, cool sanctuary.
He kept passing the gate and sign,
missing the number of the cottage
in the close where the key is kept
for visitors to the jewel box -
and then - I lost sight of him.

© Ann Grenier

* Saxon Green: Escomb Saxon Church is enclosed in this walled village green, Co Durham, UK.
* Emily: my granddaughter, age 4, my little muse.
* “fiery heap”: from a poem by John William Pattison, born in Escomb on 26th April 1870, worked   at the George Pit (colliery) and lost a leg as a result of an accident at work. He wrote a poem, circa 1903, a loving description of Escomb as it was at the turn of the 19th Century, with the following exception:
              What spoils this village, I am sorry to say,
                   Is that fiery heap, smoking and burning away.

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  1. Built 670 A.D. Hard for an American mind to feel back that far, except by grabbing the chain you've linked from Hadrian's Wall to Raggedy Ann to a colliery accident like all the accidents of life, beyond our control. A fine, subtle and deeply moving poem, Ann.

  2. A great walk through time
    You really brought forth the period in your chime
    Evoking the essence of the picture too
    A great touch of history in verse from you.

  3. wow...this is magical and fascinating...love the imagery...i feel for him...your pen is deft tonight and pierces like that lance of memory...

  4. Beautifully crafted poem, Ann-- complete with fascinating touches including refs for the reader-- marvelous effort! xxxj

  5. The picture of this Church really reminded me of the little Church the Bronte sisters used to attend in Howarth, it is very similar. Thank you for a precious vignette here.

  6. Magical and wonderful...I love the imagery, beautiful.

  7. i wish we could fix all the broken legs in the world..great imagery and storytelling anne..love how you take us on a fascinating and magical trip here..

  8. Thank you so much for responding to our request for a poem Ann and as I mentioned before we may well put a small collection of writing from our programme together as there is a great deal of interest in this somewhat mysterious and very ancient church.I love the way this transcends time and the way it connects across continents; two disparate stories come together with such power. It's beautifully crafted and I look forward very much to reading it on Bishop FM (UK) for the November programme of The Writing Game. Both Wendy and I also think it's a fascinating example of the inspiration of place, and the way we can write about and use place even from a distance.

  9. Oh, this is good. At first I thought it was to be about Vikings sacking the countryside - until the blond with the cigarette showed up. The spirit of the place permeates the poem. Well done.

  10. so many legs to mend... so many wonderful lines which took the reader to a special place... thanks

  11. The past is undaunted in its persistent clouding of our present - the glories and sins of the past find their way through the wall of time in the weirdest of ways. The sever is everywhere. Fine poem, Ann. - Brendan

  12. I do so love the way you get 'otherworldly' feeling into your poetry. ♥

  13. There's an infinite conversation between the contemporary and the ancient, and depending on how that conversation is going, the mobile present can feel like the exhilarating riding the edge of a wave, or terribly off-balance, like walking with a bum leg (and everything in between).

    I like to read your poems in the morning with coffee; they put me in a meditative state.

  14. wow wonderful brings you back to the beginning of time so well done and enjoyed it so much

  15. Ann, a wonderful journey.... I felt the angst you described in not being able to help them, fearful to help, imagining seedy motels, liquor stores, back alleys...... beautiful poem.....

  16. Love the sound in your poem. Well done. A well told tale too.