This week I am featuring another one of Kathleen Kummer’s poem. It’s short and the neutral title belies the heart-breaking content. The poem is addressed to her adult son.
You left behind: your silver spoon – there are days when I stir my coffee with it; the drawing of yourself with the Mona Lisa eyes; I sometimes wonder how you got the chestnut avenue from that angle, and I’m suddenly happy, as though you’d just sauntered in from school and were upstairs moving your table, shouting down you were hungry; all the photographs of you – if I flicked the pages fast enough, would those in the top right-hand corner, at least, spring jerkily into life?
Item: a bank account – didn’t you need the money? Your sisters; me. People hope I don’t mind them asking about you. As if in a language I’m learning, I say, no, I don’t mind.
It’s a great pleasure introducing this month’s poet Pat Edwards. We met on Facebook and then discovered we both have a book with Indigo Dreams Publishing.
Pat is a writer, reviewer and workshop leader from mid Wales. She also offers a poetry feedback service on her site Gold Dust. Her work has appeared in Magma, Prole, Atrium,IS&T and many others. Pat hosts Verbatim open mic nights during more ‘normal’ times and curates Welshpool Poetry Festival. She has two pamphlets: Only Blood (Yaffle, 2019); Kissing in the Dark (Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2020).
Today is Mother’s Day in many countries. Pat’s dedication for Only Blood reads ‘For Mum and Dad if only we could all try again.’ Here are three poems from Only Blood, followed by Journey, from Kissing in the Dark, in Pat’s honest and compassionate voice.
The year Mum died
She is cutting tiny pieces of foam rubber to comfort-cushion her feet in pinch-painful shoes.
There’s that look in her eyes, the one I don’t yet understand, that gives away the cell-division in her breast.
She has a box of keepsakes I’m allowed to sift through: the silver clasp for keeping sixpences together; the golden compact that clicks open to reveal a mirror; the trace of bronze powder that smells like ladies.
Here in 1963 amongst the fullness of her skirt, I am barely five and only know I love her.
I want to find my mother’s jewellery, to lift the lid on a tin box of paste and pearls;
to find drop earrings that glint, necklaces that lie on collar bones, a charm or two for luck.
I want her wedding band, brooches that once fastened scarves, all the souvenirs and sentiment.
But I bet the first went to pay the gas, the second to buy the weekly shop, the third towards a gambling debt.
Teenage me always knew when he’d put on a bet. The channel would get changed, there would be an urgent tension, tight as a fist.
We’d sit saying not a word, for fear speaking would fracture us. Then, in the closing furlongs, I’d know for sure.
Dad would bounce on the edge of his seat, building from a hushed Come on my beauty! to blatant demand of it.
We would both urge the horse across the finishing line, jockey standing in his stirrups, cracking the whip.
Then the relief. Let’s get your hair done. I can buy you a new coat. As if I was my mother.
I draw a blue-black line under my eyes, trace it across the tattoo on my left arm. I watch it slide down the veins of my leg, to settle in a grey graffiti pool by my feet. That’s quite some journey I say out loud, so the man on the train looks up from his screen and glares at me like a priest. My thin mouth flashes a penance smile back at him and he absolves me I think. That’s quite some journey I say silently so the man in my dream looks up from his book and smiles at me like a friend. My full mouth offers him a lover’s kiss which surely changes something I think. I draw a blue-black line under everything.
In the Netherlands, on the evening of 4 May, the war dead will be remembered. Here is my friend Kathleen Kummer’s poem about an event that happened in Holland during the Second World War. Kathleen’s mother-in-law was a published poet.
They came at night
Then there was the night they came for the horses. There would have been no warning before the clang of jackboots on the cobbles in the yard of the outlying farm and the hammering on the door.
By the time they reached the edge of the village, the farmers were up and had slipped their bare feet into clogs. Behind the door, they were waiting for the clattering of the hooves on the road to cease.
Not that there would have been silence as this farmer moved, if need be at gunpoint, to the stable: the shifting of hooves, the neighing, the whinnying, he would know, without finding the words, meant betrayal,
his, as far as the horses knew, which may be why he came to my mother-in-law’s. I want that poem you wrote, he said, that’s being passed round, about the horses.
And now I write mine, seventy years since then, for when I can’t sleep, I often listen as the clatter of hooves on those roads in Holland swells in the peace of a night in Devon.