Sunday, February 13, 2011

Have we been introduced?

Phew ...  that was a bit scary.  First toe immersion in the cyber sea.

Not too many of my poems use words you wouldn't want to say to your mother, but Barbie brings out the primal predator in me.   There will be more Barbie poems in time.

I have a filing cabinet full  (metric equivalent suggestions?) of more or less finished and definitely abandoned poems a few continents away, unseen for a decade and more.  As the blog title suggests, I am in exile.

Once I introduced myself (in person) and was misheard and my interlocutor thought I said 'I'm an alien', which sums me up fairly accurately.  But isn't it tiresome when you read the biographies of writers who always seem to say they were the outsider, always watching the group, the last to be invited to join the rounders team, and never invited to birthday parties?  I am not going to tell you any of that rubbish ...

I like ruins.  I like quiet stones that whisper and sigh, the ones never photographed unless inadvertently as a back drop to a tour group snap, not crawled over by archaeologists nor scrawled over by good old Kilroy and his chums.  I like the sort of stones that might have been way-markers, the kind sheep scratch their backs against and birds swoop past.  I like stones that are worn from centuries of feet heading to prayer, or slapped by soldiers' sandals en route to patrol, or worried by a door post into a threshold.

In many parts of Asia it is considered both bad luck and bad manners to step on a threshold.  A guest is expected to step over the door frame.  Stones at Angkor are worn by bare feet in spite of this prohibition and they can't all have been ignorant recent visitors.

And feet are so honest.  If you look at hands they are often disguised by gloves or painted nails and jewellery, but feet carve their own stories in leather.  One of the most intimate museum displays I have ever seen was at Portsmouth not long after the Mary Rose emerged from the sea.  Along with the swords and barrels of food, the spears and the spoons were pairs of leather shoes, not touched nor seen since their owners last put them on around the 19th of July, in 1545.  Shoes carrying the shape of feet, of years of wear, of broken toes, limps and arthritis.  There are sandals amongst the rubbish found at Vindolanda, nearly 2000 years old, also imprinted with the personal, the individual, the particulars of a life.   An even older leather boot, about 5,000 -6,000 years old was found last year in Armenia. 

I have forgotten about you on the other side of the cyber sea:  you may not exist, but these tangible memories, moulded, loved, depended on, tell me somewhere, a man had a foot that was shaped just so.

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