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Martin Stannard - Poem

Martin Stannard

AUTUMN

I stumble into November. November, in turn,
bumbles into me. Woolly hat and cuddly mittens
are hauled out of storage. Grey waters
unmoving under a slate grey sky,
everybody in a mood. Stratus cloud.
Tales from the riverbank. Down in the valley
I've forgotten where the shops are
and what they're for. Did there used to be
a clinic here? I don't remember.
In the village to stock up on cheroots
I passed a house that has a fully-decorated
Christmas tree in the window. It's November!
What on earth is wrong with people? The fact is
we once lived in forests and caves and holes
in the ground. Perhaps I'm not fully awake
and the sky is not as low as it appears to the eye
or to what I like to call my mind.
Surely there used to be a circus here,
or was it a lunatic asylum? Buckets of water
emptied over some heads. Quite hilarious.
I'm still in bed, or that's how it feels.
I'm not eager to wake up from dreams
to be described coyly in the journal as "romantic"
but as romantic as a car park. In November
the trees have been stripped of their leaves.
The sidewalks were never attractive;
now they're just plain ugly.
I'm not sure about the paths of righteousness.
Who was that girl I saw myself with?
I remember her on the trapeze.
Is it true they're going to build a Fun Palace here?
I'm surprised permission was given. I guess
money talks. It's a language I don't understand.
Is that plainsong come wafting across
the fields? It might be a funeral dirge.
I don't know what plainsong is. Why do we have
a brass band if not to bring joy to all? All attempts
to identify birds and wild life fail miserably.
Membership of "Lux Gentleman's Retreat" is become
far too expensive and has been allowed to lapse.
Beneath the slate grey sky I have the photographs
but they are fading. I'm beginning to have to
invent all that may or may not have happened.
Was there once a church here, or something?
Is it true the circus is coming to town?
What time approximately does the performance begin?
All day I lay under the slate grey sky.
Remind me: when was it we met? And your name?
A slight light rain falls, because it's November
and it's either that or fog or a blanketing of dismal.
"Exuberance cannot always carry the day,
sometimes you have to carry it yourself."
Something The Gaffer used to say;
it pains me to have Time prove him right.
We used to frolic here, did we not? Lambkins
refusing to sit still for their portraits.
The clown is tired now and thinking about
retiring. He's gone to the Off Licence.
The audience is thin on the ground this evening.
Either it's because tomfoolery has little appeal
or the weather is acting as a deterrent. Actually,
I don’t think he's much of a clown. Did we
once not care about this, or about anything?
There are people asleep on the pavement, which is
probably not good for their health. Were they always
there, covered in autumnal leaves? Apparently
that's show business and/or a social issue.
Someone is making away with all the money,
and also, sadly, with the girl.
The day slumps. I cannot imagine what
it would be like not to be able to imagine
an alternative. Did children once play tag and
kiss-chase here, squealing with laughter at
the corniest of pratfalls? Were old men
allowed to speak to them innocently and without
fear? What's this in front of my face?
One hears a sigh from where, during
The Golden Age, everything was lovely
in words of one or two syllables. The pretty lady
standing up on the back of the pretty white horse
as it galloped around the market square.
Did I imagine her, and was the sun shining?
I'm not sure why everyone is laughing.
The sun's not shining now. The slate grey sky –
stratus cloud – should not determine the day.
I've forgotten how to think, how to undo the straps
and take to the air where breathing may resume.
I'm thinking of leaving the circus and getting a job,
like, you know, stacking shelves in Aldi or,
if that doesn’t work out, stacking shelves in Lidl.
Checking the diary I notice I'm two weeks late
changing the bed sheets. The telephone rings.
Did we once upon a time have a telephone? It's
someone wants to insulate my loft and steal my money.
Take my roof, why don’t you? Then I can look up from bed
and note the colour of the slate grey sky.


Copyright © Martin Stannard, 2022


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