Folly Cottage-Poetry Day

A post from Ashen reminded me today was Poetry Day and since she wrote a portrait of a friend I thought I’d follow suit.  This is in memoriam to the home a painter and mother of five filled, that now lies empty, unchanged. When I wrote it she was alive and I wrote it for her.

Sailing Folly Cottage 

Boat, below the saddle of hill, rides the sway-back hummock grass
Moored against the end of the lane; tilts a chin to the drifting cloud,
Blows smoke kisses to the wind and rain; hails all elements as friends
None entering or passing by need wipe off feet or hands.

The door in permanent spasm can neither close nor stay ajar.
Bless-me sun has a needle stuck on a gap-tooth grin of spring
Shadows that have shed their shoes pull at bramble and wild colt,
Bulging tool-shed tethered with chain on the off-chance it might bolt.

Two gumboots, silent gaffers, relax on the broken step
Ignored by planters, iron pots, overflowing matted grass…
Closing their sun-blinded eyes; chew at smothered bulb…
The old boat rocks at anchor strain, its song a creaking hull.

Kneaded by fingers of babbling babes; kicked by bruising boys,
Stage for smashing arguments; quiet nights of mutual bliss…
Wringing out cold compress to bleeding black-eyed divorce;
Serene it coasts vicissitude; gives two masts to local reproach.

……………………

Beyond the marina of teak-oil stone; exiled by the well-heeled wharf,
The flotilla of circling circumspect homes; each with a view of the green,
Sailing across the well clipped grass where shaggy goats were tethered..
The Common much less common since corduroy Colonels moved in.

Beyond the watch at double door the Labrador flicks a frown
To passing ladders, green eyed cat; the Thatcher with next season’s quote,
Pop-in friend with lists and flowers…
The trial of the fancy-dress demand of the children’s annual fete…

……………………

A narrow jetty stretches into the hill to the quarantined boat, patently ill;
Moored out of sight; buckled by hedge, swift sluicing course…
Peeling skin in scrofulous flakes onto cracked and rising flags,
Rusting pails and harness for the broken-winded horse.

An isolated case of trust in a simple right to decline
In company with the Captain who is eighty (if a day)
She’s the tiller on her children’s lives, the tea-caddy of their coin;
She wears a waxed all-weather cape below a sharp white crown

She doesn’t stop to give a damn, nor does Sparky her clown.

Author: philipparees

A writer ( mostly narrative poetry) of fiction and non-fiction. Self publisher of fiction and Involution-An Odyssey Reconciling Science to God (Runner-up Book of the Year (2013), One time builder ( Arts centre) Mother of four daughters: Companion of old man and old dog: One time gardener, lecturer, wannabe cellist, mostly enquirer of 'what's it all about', blogger and things as yet undiscovered.

11 thoughts on “Folly Cottage-Poetry Day”

  1. Thank you for reading, and letting me know you had, Evelyn. All good wishes for recovery of vocal chords, though sometimes I think I would benefit by becoming a Trappist, myself! But then, without words, I wonder what I’d be! Hope your daughter returns safe.

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  2. Powerful imagery that begs for my full attention, to reflect in my mind’s eye and return with you where “tage-Poetry Day

    A post from Ashen reminded me today was Poetry Day and since she wrote a portrait of a friend I thought I’d follow suit. This is in memoriam to the home a painter and mother of five filled, that now lies empty, unchanged. When I wrote it she was alive and I wrote it for her.

    Sailing Folly Cottage

    Boat, below the saddle of hill, rides the sway-back hummock grass
    Moored against the end of the lane; tilts a chin to the drifting cloud,
    Blows smoke kisses to the wind and rain; hails all elements as friends
    None entering or passing by need wipe off feet or hands.

    The door in permanent spasm can neither close nor stay ajar.
    Bless-me sun has a needle stuck on a gap-tooth grin of spring
    Shadows that have shed their shoes pull at bramble and wild colt,
    Bulging tool-shed tethered with chain on the off-chance it might bolt.

    Two gumboots, silent gaffers, relax on the broken step
    Ignored by planters, iron pots, overflowing matted grass…
    Closing their sun-blinded eyes; chew at smothered bulb…
    The old boat rocks at anchor strain, its song a creaking hull.

    Kneaded by fingers of babbling babes; kicked by bruising boys,
    Stage for smashing arguments; quiet nights of mutual bliss…
    Wringing out cold compress to bleeding black-eyed divorce;
    Serene it coasts vicissitude; gives two masts to local reproach.

    ……………………

    “Beyond the marina of teak-oil stone; exiled by the well-heeled wharf,” – when my heart aches to hear from my daughter who is in Haiti, you provide me with nourishing pause. Thank you.

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  3. I felt to pause and pause again, re-read Sailing Folly Cottage, and read John Dockus’ comments again – which I did, and then came across your sonnet at the end. What can I say? Thank you Philippa, this is a master at work. John too. My sister and I have just come in – I’m in Cape Town for a few days. She put on classical country music as I sat down to my computer. I felt the lament and the cadence of the music while reading. It struck me. I couldn’t tell you what was playing but I felt the rhythm immediately. The music changed to something more upbeat, I asked her to switch it off so I could give your writings my full attention.

    I also wondered if it was autobiographical –

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  4. Incredible poem which affects me in so many ways. When I first read it, I didn’t know what I was reading: pure music. Just in sound alone, beautiful. Then I read it again and I was struck or surprised by the superimposing of boat and horse and house or cottage, all wedded together, seamlessly fused, working as one rich and complex metaphor. All the more remarkable a feat of the imagination because of how natural you make it appear.

    The primal power in your poetic genius is on display here, Philippa. The passage of time is not trivialized. One feels the ravages of it. Bone and sinew are in your lines; – arthritic ache, the creaking hull. Mortality is met head on, handled not daintily, or by dancing around it, but grabbed hold of firmly and skillfully worked by calloused hands. That’s how you practice your craft. “None entering or passing by need wipe off feet or hands.”

    As brilliantly imaginative as you are, Philippa, you are also a hard realist. You see clearly what’s in store for us in our mortality, and do not flinch or look away. This seems to be the mortar and pestle for grinding the pigments with which you paint: In all of our relationships and endeavors, our pageantry and pretending, our acting of roles on the world’s stage, you see through to the grinning skull. Life can be quite a comedy when we look no further than its ever-changing surface, but it’s a tragedy the more we fix our gaze and penetrate deeper in, seeing the unavoidable and inevitable. That’s what resonates in your last line: “She doesn’t stop to give a damn, nor does Sparky her clown”.

    There’s hardness and defiant resolution in that last line. In that line I hear: there’s no time for niceties and polite society. I’m moving on. I won’t hesitate to leave you behind. The horse in the poem could be a descendent of one of the horses of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, only now more weakly signaling the end, which should still light a fire under us, waking us up. But most of us humans, being so weak and pathetic, needing the comfort of illusion, infinitely cunning in denial, are too drowsy and numb to recognize it. (Half the things I write, I fumble around, feeling quite stupid, lacking the depth, strength and resolve to express anything of real impact and significance). Our folly is our faithful pet. Sarcasm and mockery are embodied by Sparky.

    This is a main reason I love your writing, but why more people don’t come knocking at your door, why it’s not attractive in any conventional sense and I suspect will never gain you many fans or followers. It’s not because there’s anything wrong with you! It’s because in your most basic and primal writing instincts, in the particular way you wed sound and sense into beautiful and powerful music, raw and rude nature is unmasked, and you push right through to the grinning skull, reminding us of our fate.

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    1. There s as much to reflect upon in your understanding of my writing, as in the writing itself! You are a perfect exemplar by which to examine the intersection between a writer and their reader. It is clear to me that you make yourself totally available to what you find in the words, lines, cadences in such a way as to EXACT further suppositions, namely that you make ready before you read.

      I could simply rejoice( and that I do) at a reader who ‘gets’ everything, but I have also to receive the mirror reflection that shows me myself differently. I cannot claim mastery of all you perceive, because I write instinctively. So you create as much as I do.

      The ‘seeing through to the grinning skull’ is undoubtedly my nemesis. It sounds, out of context, ruthless. I hope this poem is affectionate as much as inventive. The journey of a family on the rocking boat/horse through a generous poverty, stoicism, and breasting the disapproving waves of opprobrium was a celebration of fortitude. Even though it travels towards desolation, as we all do. I doubt many writers find readers as perceptive as you. It must start with liking me, before you like the writing. That’s very rare, since we have never met. But for it I might just keep writing on!

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      1. The affection, the compassion, for your subject is there, Philippa, but it’s there as surely as the scarlet and fragrance of the petals of a rose, or the stench of a rotting corpse. It’s not an affectation, a sentimentalization added on to prettify, painted on like a cosmetic. Your deep human feeling for the subject pushes beyond self-regard and vanity, remaining intrinsic, necessary and inevitable. It’s hard and ruthless, but not heartless. The Grim Reaper is the consummate loner, and will never be the life of the party. He is ruthless in his attempts to claim, and in the pulse of your writing there’s a fighting back. You take that ruthlessness into yourself and turn the tide. You lean into the currents of Death, as if fighting your way through a hurricane. I think there’s courage in how you write. I had thought there’s something about this poem which is also autobiographical, so deep is your empathy and identification. You could just as well be speaking of your own family.

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      2. I had never seen that it could be my own family, but yes, you’re right. I suppose in the end empathy arises through deep identification, and that through knowledge. Since we are talking about this, this sonnet might fit?
        Ergo…

        If you bequeath me all your dreams unspent
        that had their birth beneath the sheeted sky
        Once dressed in music, they went penitent
        through golden gorse, for you walk solitary.
        If I can turn a page within your past
        and my slow eye peruse your slow delight…
        The landscape of your heart has found a mast
        to lend perspective to its breadth and height.
        I mapped your longing long before you thought
        to give account of thirst, or dust or wine
        I laid your blooms of hope amidst the grass of doubt
        I spread your pasture, I reseeded time.
        What can I know but what I recognise?
        You are myself and yours are my own eyes.

        One especially for you John!

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      3. This sonnet is dear to me, Philippa. Really beautiful and moving. I’ve read it many times already, and now it’s in my heart, like a stray dog which has come in wagging its tail, finally finding a home.

        This does get me thinking about what empathy actually is. In its deepest practice I do think a process happens where I and Thou dissolve into each other and “Thou art that” is experienced. Of course it’s not a being in love in a romantic sense, but love is definitely involved, and being able to be hard-nosed about it (unflinching and ruthless) allows more profound associations and correspondences to reveal themselves. In its deepest practice, empathy also becomes a process of autobiography, but maybe only in one of its lesser aspects, a reflection of the main drive.

        I think also of the idea of “tough love” when I read certain of your lines, Philippa, the muscle in them, the toughness behind which there is clearly a deep feeling heart. An energy gathers in oneself where one finally has had enough of the usual dead-ends and frustrations, the maintaining of a pretty picture, refusing any longer to be nice, no longer idealizing, no longer “enabling”, to use a pop psychology term. A storm is finally unleashed, which blows out all the dust and cobwebs, rattles the foundation of the house (or rocks the boat), and knocks things off shelves, breaks things open. A wreckage occurs, but out of that is learned what is durable and worth keeping. I locate a poem like this of yours, Philippa, after the storm, where you move in and clean up, collecting and weaving into beautiful lines which do honor to what has revealed itself to have durability and worth.

        (Oh, it is often surprising what reveals itself to have durability and worth after a storm! At the first shaking of the earth and blast of wind many of those things that appear noble and strong on the surface and to have many other fine qualities in settled times are the first to crack and crumble.)

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