|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.