Tag Archives: The Fiddle

Fancy a Riddle Poem? Here’s a sequence of them.

Batterie de Cuisine

I

Use me before you use anything.

Someone’s got to sort the good from bad.

Lumps in the sugar, grit in the lentils-

those are my tasks, I’m Cinderella.

I sift flour, create clouds of finery.

II

My hands hold plenty, weigh it up,

inform you of all its statistics.

Numerals are my gods, I adore them,

reel off their names in my own private litany.

I would like to speak my facts aloud.

Pointer or iron cakes, it’s all the same to me.

I know all, am confident with decisions,

my head teems with instructions.

III

I build with air to make castles of light,

an airy cage to lift your life.

Don’t think I’m an air-head –

I batter lumps, crash their privacy,

rescue the love life of sauces.

I’m your girl in shining armour.

IV

I came from a large and venerable family,

though not quite silver myself, I am stainless.

Some of us are royal, some religious,

we have our apostles, our servers,

runcibles are our literary sisters.

You scoop and measure with us,

we are the first implements your baby meets

and we are loved in palm or mouth.

                                     V

Sharp enough to cut myself, that’s me,

kept well honed, ready for action.

I cannot bear stickiness; keep me polished.

Honest smells cling lovingly, pungent onion-

I score and square its tingling moons.

How powerful I am, the Lord of the board.

I make mincemeat. Give me fingers, lives.

Feel the weight of me, serious,

my wooden handle snug inside your palm.

Use me well or I will turn on you.

This sequence appeared in my 1999 collection (Stride). Although it is officially out of print, I still have some copies here, from the publisher’s stock cupboard.

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Poem for the Ending of the Year

What do I say to you, you who know me

and know what I am capable of ? I can give you

nothing I have not already offered but the desire

to keep on offering it, not asking for return.

It is not a petty bargain that we make, not a totting up

of meaningless figures, more a delight in the giving,

the hope of acceptance. My hand is open to you.

 

The years move along, crawling and running,

matching our work and rest, our sluggishness,

boredom, our moments of laughter and our silences.

The end of the century begins its slow approach.

Neither wants to be in this position when it comes

yet know we will look back to say, we were happy then,

we were young, we knew what desire was.

Originally published in my collection The Fiddle (Stride 1999)

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Getting the Letters

The letters of my dad’s family are coming home to me today. Maria has finished scanning them and has offered to meet me in Knutsford so she can hand them over. It’s going to be very emotional, I know. I am looking forward to tracing the narrative through and looking at each sibiling’s letters to get a fuller picture.

One thing I was always told is that my dad passed the 11+ but was not allowed to go to grammar school, but told to get a job. This was terribly unfair because the oldest two went, and went on to do well in life with better jobs. Frances lived to the age of 95, whereas my dad was only 67, having had a tough life working first in shops and then in factories. These letters seem to have been written in the period this was all happening so it will be fascinating to see the other side of events. I am wondering now if finanically the family fell on harder times and there was no intention to be unfair.

After hearing this story years ago I wrote this poem:

Equal Measures

My father cutting Cheshire

gauged by eye the placing of the wire,

shaved from crumbling block

the perfect ounce.

This skill he had to live by,

dividing creamy cartwheels

under Mr Lennon’s

judging eye.

His father’s careless cheeseparing

cheated him of grammar school.

His childhood left

a bitter taste.

Not wanting us to gag on rind,

he jiggled scales to weigh

in equal measure

everything,

his knife scrupulous. But we

just kids, repaid him with

“Got more than me!”

“Got more than me!”

I want to see if there is another side to the story, and also what my dad thought about it at the time.

There are so many other questions I may find answers to in these letters. Already from what I have seen I can believe what a loving tight-knit family they were at this time.

Cover of my second collection, where some of these earlier poems reside.

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