Ritual IV

A consideration of stillness.

Image Credit: 
Public Domain

The birds have made their home in my eaves:
where the rain has cracked apart the wood
the mother flutters above the soffit
to feed her chicks who hide behind
the hum of my TV.
I have finally become a landlord
and enjoy their company, watch intrigued
the squabbles between the starlings and the wrens.
My grandfather had two stuffed robins
which sat above the fire with black misfocused eyes
watching the four corners of the room.
When I have spent an evening scraping
the paint off my overall
I collapse on the big chair and think
my limbs will never loosen from this stiffness
and the doctor will find my rigored body
mouth agape, still staring at the stained ceiling.

On a Sunday, or when work has slowed,
I take my bike and travel nowhere particular;
riding atop the old drain-ditches,
riding between the gnarled oak trees
who sometimes grant me shelter
to wipe raindrops from my glasses
and sometimes shatter sunlight between
their raw emerald leaves.
I rest in a fallow field and eat ham sandwiches
and listen for the song of a mistlethrush
or the low growl of a Peugeot 308.

I had always thought secretly
if I travelled the road quietly
life would pass easily.

I tried to disturb only the corn-dust
which in the wake of my bicycle
spirals out of the threaded fields
and sticks on the wind and drifts over the villages:
leaving its fingerprints in the cracking roads,
settling in the ridges of the pebbledash,
marking the powder-white clouds
in the pink and gold sky.

I have begun noticing how the house changes space
with the weather and with the hours:
on a hot day the walls shrink
pressing the air against my skin;
when it is cold, they are loose and comfortable
like a well-worn jumper.
In the early morning, when I wake to piss
the house grows twice over.

I push away an abandoned trolley
and crush a snail that hid in the wheelarch.
When the bins have been collected
five thuggish sparrows bounce along the road
pecking the debris.

I was always hoping that I could get by,
that I could slip through on the sly.

When the storms come and the roads are slick
I sit by my workshop, under its awnings
and see the frogspawn spill out of the pond
or the mud build by the back door
as the clouds build to a big roar.
I like the smell of new rain
and take the route through the woods
when I go to buy my milk
to feel it rise from the dirt floor,
treading softly to not startle
the deer behind the creek.

Once, when I had woken in a cold sweat
I saw one, a deer,
stumbling down the street,
its silver-brown hair matted with blood
and its eyes shining red under the moon.
I stared at it, afraid
of what it had come for.
By the morning there was no trace
aside from the stains on the pavement.
Should I, I thought, have brought him inside?
Washed his fur, poured him a whiskey?

The weeds are pushing through my paving.
I have lingered long in static matters
listening to the starling’s chatter.
My conifer has been picked clean
the tufts ripped for nest supplies.
In those storms, I feel the thunder in my foundations
and imagine roots
are breaking through my house.
The starling shredded my paper. I admired its candour.
When the sun came out it burned my coriander.

David Dykes is an Essex-born poet dislocated to the Medway Delta.

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