Jenny Chantler p.2

Icklingham RNR

The Dressing Table

Fitz’s Day

Icklingham RNR

Along the top of the sign
in bold fashion
strides the word:
“PROTECTED”.

I look at it with different eyes
since I was asked to stand up
and be counted,
so to speak.

Now, even an unofficial officer
in Roadside Nature Reserve
can give her morning walk
a little more purpose,

an extra jut to the chin,
between
bending at intervals
to examine a flower jacket,
check over a grass plume,
trying to memorise
faces and names.

Later I take time to sit
on the Scots Pine stump,
the dog resting like a veteran
primed more for recharge
than charge.

Sotto voce
winds stir these Breckland battalions
parading un-mown 'til September,
and fritillaries weave their brown scraps of ribbon
through the foxtails and dogs' tails,
the cocks' feet and fescue.

It is getting hotter;
a white feather floats down
from somewhere above;
the little bunch of vari-coloured alfalfa
wilts cream, yellow, purple in my left hand...

I realise the shade is less than it used to be
half a decade ago
and the dog shifts position.
But it is good there are new recruits
to the other verge:
pine again but also hawthorn, maple and birch,
to hold the road line
when these old soldiers fail.

I look down - at a yellow spider
small and global,
casting his line
and zip wiring forward
until he reaches
my salmon coloured jeans,
then retreating again
as he calculates danger
and zero reward.

I look up - the first red and black
cinnabar of the summer
zigzags past; a bee cuts across
bent on nectar and
a bi-plane of burnt sienna moth lands
on my wrist to black eye me for bright seconds
before moving on,
harmless and unharmed...

I look around - then marvel at the lack of wheel ruts,
craters, fall-out and explosions,
fighters, flee-ers, guns and carnage
and I flare to send out this bounty as food parcels,
this tranquillity as fire blankets,
this innocence as healing,
to conflagrations elsewhere, everywhere,
anywhere...

I truly wish I could
If I could, I truly would

Copyright © 2015 Jenny Chantler
Icklingham RNR read by Jenny Chantler
The Dressing Table

I opened all my bottles
Hoping one might tempt
Your almost maiden diffidence

But though you looked,
Weighed and surveyed them all
Pronounced them sad or moving
Deep, interesting or strange

Not one of all those contents
Or their bottles shaped of glass
Blue, gold or transparent
Bold, resonant or slim

Could draw that icy splinter
That sits within your heart

I feel like wretched Gerda
Surrounded by lost art.

Copyright © 2008 Jenny Chantler
Fitz's Day

I had thought I had no warning of this:
When you phoned I felt quite unprepared.
So even when you said you had bad news
I considered those left from the generation before
And was thinking sad, but good innings, thoughts.
But then, you told me it was Fitz.
Then, dislocation hit me,
And all the engines spun and locked and everything went still…
I don’t know whether it is better to be left in that sharp way
Or after years, as Chris left me. 
It is strange how death takes the choice out of going -
Fitz diving straight in, Chris pushed toe by toe.
In life you would have switched the roles
But not the leaving of it.

I remember now that I had been sad yesterday,
Sure that I had lost my bird,
The black bird with the white marked wing.
Only he turned up this morning,
And I think perhaps it had been the sun
That had driven him away;
Made him too tired even to tout for grapes
Or flakes of cheese or cake.
But perhaps that strange and sudden gush of tears
Had been a form of code,
As were the way linked names have hovered recently
Both at work and at home,
Fitzgerald's mostly, but the prefix still.

You told me the clock in your kitchen stopped at eleven minutes past twelve
When Fitz died.
And I think, not quite the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour, but symbolic
Somehow of the conflict he was in,
And of the war machinery he worked on,
And the record of his father as a soldier, airman and a sailor too.
I wheel back further and recall the drive
To finally have Gran’s watch repaired last week,
And how I looked at Grandpa’s mantel clock just yesterday
Thinking it was time to start what had stopped with him,
Over 20 years’ ago.

And then I hear this day’s date toll its bell
And know it’s just a year since those two girls
Went missing, never to return as once they were
To a village I know too - which served us well.
And I am hurled back to the memories of reapers
Bent in their grim search beside my route to work.
And how the tears of mourners followed ours
To fall beneath an Octagon,
High under its fenland sky,
Hazy in the sun with ash and dissolution…

How long am I in stasis?  None is here to know, but strangely
Coming back, I no longer feel deserted
By dreams that braced me during long years in the dark,
And less afraid there’ll be no future warnings
That spare at least the dead days of reaction.

And working through the maze my life starts up again
And gives me sight through these few veils between us
To what we share and know.
And with the sight comes feeling;
And with the name comes understanding;
And fear of the dark nameless becomes the lesser pain of known
And I can cry at last, for Fitz alone.

Copyright © 2008 Jenny Chantler

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