ALL IN THE MIND
When it all gets a bit much
I sneak up to my attic
for a leisurely, delicious
There are photos of people and places:
I puzzle over names and years
then dust off plans and projects
and ponder how they might progress.
There are novels half-begun
whose development will be stunning
and hilarious jokes
whose punch-lines I try to recall.
There are pictures of people
who need to be put in their place:
I think up suitably sharp rebukes
and practise withering looks.
Someone’s yelling at me downstairs,
an inch from my nose.
How the hell can I answer,
up here in my attic.
BLIND FROM BIRTH
When the bandages came off
light did not surprise me
but colours moved, merged, mesmerised.
A voice said “Well?”
so I knew there was a face
– and whose.
Following and focusing
were many months’ work,
Today I shaved my nose
until my reflected hand
revealed the vastness of my face
and the suds were white, not brown.
I tried not to close my eyes.
Things change as I walk round them –
is this an apple, a pear?
Touch and smell will tell me.
I must not close my eyes.
On the windows are fields and trees.
Twigs I know, buds I know,
but I cannot feel a tree.
Walking between them
I try not to trip over their shadows
as they sidle past.
At night the moon is a broken fingernail
tangled in the tops
as I am tangled in this world of sight.
Let me go where I do not feel crippled,
back to my safe, familiar,
world of touch.
The silliest questions are always the best:
“Why is the sky dark at night?”
The obvious answer doesn’t work,
and “Because it is” won’t do.
Some people sink their teeth into questions
like a dog at a postman’s trousers
until he delivers an answer –
for someone else.
High-octane questions burn out the brain:
“How can we prove we exist?”
Distinguishing the me-ness of me
from the you-ness of you
is like knitting cobwebs.
Knowledge blunders laboriously forward
with lucky finds crouching
round blind bends.
Thank goodness some light will be thrown
on that dark-sky conundrum
by someone determined to know
have four hundred eyes.
Did you take a biscuit from the display tin?
Did you put the lid back loose? They all went soft…
No, Dad, I didn’t.
But I did. And he knew.
And I knew how he loved the polished wooden counters
And the burnished coffee grinder
And the wire cheese-cutter
And the sugar scoops and butter pats
And the proud pyramids of tins
And how he so nearly wept
At the slow realisation that the shop wasn’t paying.
More punishment than enough.
The hunters sit gazing
into the embers.
Blind to the spark-dusted sky
deaf to the chatter from the huts
they relive the chase
recall lost companions
plan tomorrow’s kill
without a word.
On my thirtieth birthday I found a green pebble
outside number 16 Drury Lane.
I dribbled it all the way to Euston –
through the traffic and the people.
If someone else kicked it I retrieved it
and continued from the previous location.
It went into the grass beside Russell Square
and under a café table on Woburn Place
so I placed it two feet from the kerb
and started again.
If it had been lost in a drain or similar orifice
I’d have kicked another pebble from the beginning.
Outside Euston Station I picked it up
and placed it in my right-hand trouser pocket.
It had taken 44 minutes
not counting stoppage time.
The pebble is safe in my bedside cabinet
at the back of the second drawer down –
I’ve kept it carefully all these years
because without doubt
it was most satisfactory.
Brian Young is a retired languages teacher living in Hertfordshire, England. He has a degree from London University in Spanish and French, and for many years taught languages in secondary schools and at the University of Hertfordshire. He is an active member of Ver Poets in St Albans, helps to run a University of the Third age poetry group, and regularly reads his work at the Poetry Society in London. He has won several prizes in national competitions, including second prize in the Southport Writers’ Circle open competition. He has gained Certificates of Merit from the Mere Literary Festival, Wiltshire, and has had poems published in several anthologies. He enjoys writing slightly quirky poetry where he tries to emphasize the precise and heightened use of language.