Friday, December 31, 2010

Hope for 2001- in a wooden shed

I've been away from blogging, away in in meat space doing stuff with family and friends. After a few days off, I lose the habit of bowing to the computer.

But as 2010 peters out, I need to close the year with something. So I paste in here a poem, because that's what I do when I have nothing else to say. It's not a year-change poem particularly, but I like it because of the hope that it ends with.

All you can say about 2010 is that it was pretty shit, and 2011 is going to be shitter if the UK and/or global economy goes into a slump again.

So we need to bathe in the river of Hope.

This is addressed to Rudy Lewis, a veteran of the Civil Rights movement who edits Chickenbones, and was working on a shed when I wrote it, in 2006.

My poem goes goes like this:

The Shed
To Rudolph Lewis
I hope that you, old friend, toiling away
to fix the roof of your store shed
all day for days in overwhelming heat,
the sweat of natural Florida,
that makes this too-warm English summer
seem temperate again,
I hope you win. I hope your father’s store
Is gloried with the roof that it deserves.

I hope that you don’t fall.

I want my friends in Africa
pinned down in Mogadishu
by flying lead, not nails,
to know about your shed.

I want as many people now
to know about your shed
as stand to learn from it,
because it’s more than shed
we talking here.

Fine as it no doubt is as shed,
this one is more than timber,
more than tar paper and sweat,
more than determination,
more than a health and safety risk,
more than some slabs of wood
arranged with more or less regard
to canons of structural integrity:

It is a thing of spirit,
creation of a living poet.

Architecture. Frozen blues, maybe.
Cathedrals come to mind.

Not that they should come
en masse to make a pilgrimage,
although in fact when you have gone
they might well come,
for few are famous while they breathe,

And of the ones that are,
it would be better for us all
that they were not,

The point is that this shed
is getting built.

Trees are our brothers.
They live and die
just like John Barleycorn,
and willingly give up the sap
to win new life in service to their family.

This shed was once alive,
bi-placentate in form,
a joiner-up of earth and sky
the fusion point in its green sap
to all four elements.

Like Shiva’s locks that broke the flood
Its leaves gave shade from blazing sun.
Trees give us unconditional love,
like dogs and gods;

some gods.

Sadly not all.

It died to find itself becoming shed.

Frozen blues? In Florida now
the only frozen things
are found in white machines
humming beneath their breath
just while the juice is on.

Not frozen: solid blues
from far away, blown out by Buddy Bolden,
crossing a river wider, deeper, cooler than
Pontchartrain to celebrate one poet’s work.

It’s up there with the wolf and owl
and in the end, I dare say
up there with
Eli, Eli Lama Sabacthani,
if all the Truth be known.

The point is this:
this is a shed that’s going up.
Rudy is in the business of building sheds,
not breaking them.

He does not use his strength to knock down sheds.
He does not bulldoze structures.
He brings no lethal force to bear on others’ work.
There are no bombs in Rudy’s bag.

That’s all. That’s good. That’s all we need.

(c) Richard Lawson 2006

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