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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16 comments:

  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.

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  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.

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  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...

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

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  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.

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

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  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..

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  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.

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  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.

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

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  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

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

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  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.

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  14. wow wonderful brings you back to the beginning of time so well done and enjoyed it so much
    http://gatelesspassage.com/2011/10/11/the-day-of-the-dead/#comment-1682

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  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.....

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

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