The grizzled old man looked at me
with the morning sun glistening on bristled chin.
His eyes sunken, not hooded like crows
but sprawled-over by lank eyebrows; and his nose!
Thin commas red-lining the beak and you see
the grey from his nostrils peek.
There’s a finite crease in each lobe of each ear
and the duct in his eye predicted a tear, or sleep.
The fine hair cast thin and lopped to one side
hiding the patch where the thatch had died.
Back to his jaw where the line has sagged
and the lips drawn in.
The rhythm is missing, it’s not me nor him.
Maybe, just maybe, I’m seeing his twin.
The hawthorn, once budded and blossom-smothered
So smooth and supple that she waved to and caressed the breeze
Twisting with light to loose her petals and covered
To spell the ground white with flattering ease.
As branches arched, grew wide and reached for sun,
Beneath its shade in dappled light grew nature’s young
To play and grow and shelter as young shoots
In the founding nest among the hawthorn roots.
But time, the tides of man, an unknown thing in hawthorn’s course
Seeks recompense for seasons’ gifts
And bends and wreaks with gales that force
The gnarled and ancient roots to lift
And skin the branches clean of bud and leaf
To leave a memory and make a willow weep.
Recollection slips into gear when sitting in my quiet place
And the setting sun brings into view a distant face
That has never aged with signs of wear.
This time it’s red-eyed Henry who heads the line
With his solemn look. Always hid behind
BIg-foot McCluskey but now he has the shilling
His penitent father gives for sweets
and he’s always willing
To share his treats with those who fold him in.
So there he is, is Big-foot, as heavy as is tall.
With Shiny-face and cheerful smile for one and all;
Unless you mock his mother, striving hard to keep together
A house of children by working the only way she could.
And then beware, big-foot.
I sip my thermos’ tea and hough quietly as childhood ghosts
Drift across the rows of red and white-stringed beans;
Canopies of leaves that point and flutter and boast of ripened seeds
That twist and burst and fall on fallow soil, on forgotten scenes.
Big Mary, Little Jane. Oddly sisters a year apart
Who always dangled off each other’s arms as if alarmed to part,
Except when chased by Quickey-Tom and then would dash across the lane
To squeal in unison on opposing sides and feign
Surprise or anger amid delight.
And Mickey, Smiff and then there’s Jim.
What became of him, I wonder absently, sipping tea, still steaming
Into rheumy eyes.
He had big plans. Dressed like a mannequin for any occasion.
Always scheming, planning, looking for a reason
Not to be him.
Glasses, they say are always rose-tinted.
Beds, they say, are of your own making.
But I wonder, in my quiet place,
Of the stories they would make of me;
Of my face that never ages,
Of my eyes, one, two, three.
for Jean, Poet. JJS. 9jan.2017
One hundred threads
of finest silken line.
A spiders web of steel
in summer through winter’s grip
and yet a sip of wine
that weds your world to mine.
Three Poems J Johnson Smith