When you leave for the holidays
I sit in my suburban room
sketching telegraph poles,
smudging avenues, cul-de-sacs
from the page. Pastels bleed
pastel shades, the ordinary
lawns are shorn of buttercups
and children run in squares
round a perimeter fence.
By the paddling pool, I scatter
artisan bread crumbs to a crowd
of mallards, for you, salmon
spawning season on the Tweed,
cycling with a rod and triangle hook,
a box of Jock Scott, Blue Charm,
Mar Lodge selected with precision,
waiting beside high, grey-green
waters, undecided skies.
Crawfordjohn for pheasants,
the Lead Hills for woodcock
alone, rifle at your shoulder,
painted ladies birthing eggs
on buddleias at your feet,
that profile; so Robert the Bruce,
turned to the full plumage,
a red crest, a cataract
skimming the gorse-hill's contour.
You told me night brings
constellations, Northern Lights,
engorged stars, comet’s tails,
a porcine moon, and I see you
camped beside the bothy
in fire-light, jokey with friends,
the flask passed hand to hand,
talk of golden plovers, snipe -
all the feathers you’ve yet to shoot.
They came to your bedsit in Crouch End:
sound-post cracks, fallen bridges, stiff pegs.
White horsetails hooked to the wall,
shells of spruce and maple on vinyl floors,
in a burnt apron stained with pernambuco
madder-root, you laid purfling
carved a scroll, with chisels, gouges
tamahagane blades mantled in silk.
Your fingers deep-nicked, stitched with lines
of super-glue, arpeggios to test
the perspicuity of sound and more, to flex
your dormant wings, malting in a back row
seat. Some virtuoso at the Wigmore Hall
that winter would call you to re-hair his bow.
Now he loiters river-side, guardian of Mudminnows,
Zope, the Spirlin who lick fly larvae off tight surface
stillness, Asps spawning on slime-rocks. He keeps
a lazy-eye on the ebb and flow of species, smoke-rings
hooping willow branches. Sometimes I am his satellite,
the subaqueous child who stakes maggots on his lure,
plays the mimic, with hair the hue of green food colourant,
dresses cut to patchy rags, rubber marigolds on my feet
catching foil and paper fish on a carpet-lake. Up-close
to the static prickle on screen I rewind VHS folk-tales
until magnetic tape flickers and waves wash his tangled
beard, warp his off-pitch duet with lucifer and the princess.
I know all the words, sing them clueless as to what they mean;
because in magic-lands there’s no need for dictionaries,
the difference between our languages is imaginary.
[Alexandra read for the English Tripos at the University of Cambridge. Of Czech descent, she lived in Prague for several years, and subsequently graduated with Distinction from the Master’s in Creative Writing programme at the University of Oxford. Her poems have been published in a range of leading journals. In 2014, Alexandra won the Jane Martin Poetry Prize and was a finalist in the Aesthetica Creative Writing Competition.]
Copyright © 2014 by Alexandra Strnad, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of Copyright law. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.