Thursday, November 05, 2009

Remember, remember

Remember remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot
I know of no reason why gunpowder, treason, should ever be forgot.

Today's is Guy Fawkes Day. Bonfire Night as they call it in England.

It conjures up the smell of bonfires in damp back gardens, crisp leaves underfoot, warm gloves and hat, the smell of cocoa - slightly scorched, the cold seeping through my coat as I sat on the back step and waited for my father to light the one firework he'd bought for the occasion.
A Catherine wheel.

I don't write much poetry these days, but this one was written a few years ago to celebrate that memory, and to comfort a friend who'd just lost her father.

Something Fathers Do

The night her father stumbled through the dark
to set the sky alight
she sat bundled on the cold stone stoop
sucking her bonnet strings until they tasted of soap
and warm spit.

It was Bonfire Night 1956
dark November
the cold air sodden as laundry
scarves of smoke drifted from nearby gardens
where voices rose and fell like flames.

Her father came through the dark
draped in shadows
he hammered just one
firework to the fence
she heard his blows and muffled thuds
he swore and mumbled just to make her laugh.

A match rasped
against his shoe


a spark bloomed
sulphur hissed

she held her breath
as shards of
light spun and whirled and spun
again round and round
crazed with energy and fire.

For just one moment her father's face
lit by the false light
glowed in the thick dark.

She knew then
knows now
barely four and already she knew
knows still
that in presence and absence
that smile would always stand out for her
against the night
she knew then knows still
that even in the dark
her father would always make magic
for her.

With my Dad, 1956, Sussex, England