Captain’s Log 29/04/17 14:23
I’ve decided to go back to Ponteland one more time, to drop off Grace and Caroline’s poems. They’ve both told me they want me to deliver it. But when I text them last week to sort out a time, neither of them replied. The pessimist in me thinks they must have changed their minds, and I consider sending the poems in the post. But the optimist in me thinks about how bad I am at replying to texts.I might as well give it a go. Anyway, it isn’t Post-to-Post Poetry, is it?
I get out of the taxi at Grace’s house. I try the intercom at the gate. It rings for a very long time while I stare at the little CCTV camera and wonder if anyone is looking at me. There’s no answer. I post the poem about her daughter through the old school letterbox.
To Nancy, who hates other people’s birthdays
I don’t want to go to your party
I don’t like other people’s parties
why can’t it be my party?
I don’t want to hear you ripping wrapping.
I don’t want to pretend I’m happy
when you get presents.
I’m not happy.
I don’t want to smell blown out candles
on your caterpillar cake.
I don’t care about the wish you made
(which you can’t even tell anyone anyway).
I wish it was my wish.
I would have wished for a guinea pig…
Or a birthday.
And the banners only have your name
and you get to win at every game
and when I do a funny joke no one laughs
and when I get up on the table no one claps,
even when I sing ‘Let It Go’
all the way through!
Because it’s all about you.
I hate you.
If you were a caterpillar
I would stand on you,
then scoop up the leftovers
and put it in a puddle.
There’s not even a bouncy castle.
After this, I decide to take a stroll over to Caroline’s house. As I remember it, you just walk down Runnymede Road until you get to Ponteland town centre, and I reckon I’ll just figure the rest out from there. It’s only after I’ve been walking for about 20 minutes that I remember I’ve never actually done this by foot. I’m totally lost. I decide to turn around and follow the route the taxi took instead.
I walk down Fox Covert Lane and wonder how the hell that name possibly came about. I pass an old woman in a green coat walking her labrador, who tells me the best way to the town centre is to go along the railway tracks. They’re abandoned railway tracks so, instead of getting hit by a freight train, it’s actually a really nice little trail, a wooded area with a path that seems to stretch off into infinity; only the sounds of birds and the occasional dog walker.
After 15 minutes, I pass some tennis courts, cross a little red bridge over the river Pont and reach the town centre. From here it’s just a short walk to Caroline’s, which is next to a very spooky-looking graveyard.
I head to the door and knock. There’s no answer. I stick the poem through the letterbox. You might remember that Caroline asked for a poem about Bonsai trees. After I met her, I got a book from the library that said making a Bonsai tree isn’t actually about making it small. In fact, it’s not about size at all. It’s about making something that mirrors natural life, using controlled and artificial techniques. I decided poetry was something quite similar.
When we met you got your phone to show
the picture of the bonsai tree you grow,
basking in its small ceramic pot
surrounded by a field made out of moss.
Then you explained the many subtle ways
you gently bend the branches into place,
trim the shoots, shave the bark, and where,
till after decades of this special care
the tiny shrub begins to look so grand,
an ancient oak in green and pleasant land.
So much so, I swear that I could see
a mini-Robin resting in the leaves,
a happy couple on a sunny day
lying on the grass beneath its shade.
I’m sure there’s people out there who can’t grasp
the reason all your time’s spent on this task
but when I had that vision, it was plain:
Our greatest passion really is the same.
Because I’ve spent the best part of my life
scribbling poems of roughly the same height,
I’ve watched the world then, slowly, over time,
I’ve pruned my senses into measured lines.
And I know you’re imitating trees
while I bend the bark of natural speech
but I believe that really, in each case,
our minds are pointing to the self-same place.
We know, through studying these little arts,
you glimpse something much bigger than their parts;
a planet crafted by a human hand,
the whole world held inside a grain of sand;
that even in the smallest blade of grass
a universe of life has come to pass,
and though so huge our human troubles seem,
they’re all forgotten in the greater scheme.