Today I planned to write a poem
And find a ‘found object’
My treasured object at the moment – I found,
A year or two back on a stall in Church Street Market
The old man, already ephemeral himself,
Sold it to me from the ephemera box –
It’s a tiny snap, I think from the First World War,
Faded now and creased,
But blurred from the instant the shutter clicked
On a grey dull day
There is a low building, mud, and a woman in a long skirt
Carries a bucket from a well
Beyond her – horse-drawn vehicles wait and soldiers I am sure
Somebody thought the scene worth capturing,
The disappointing result worth keeping,
And knowing the time and place
Did not think to write them …
And so the house clearers came and salvaged it.
For all its nebulous anonymity
Or because of it – I’m glad I rescued
This orphaned piece of history.
Today. Today I planned to write a poem
And find another ‘found object’
Set off across the green, noting the sprouting daffodil stems
And the lack of spring in my step
The 328 duly arrived, sedately.
I boarded, sat, opened my notebook
Mused, pen in hand
A little girl and her mother boarded
Moved to sit in front of me
The querulous child
Wanted to take off her jacket
‘No!’ tussled the harried mother.
Screaming doesn’t help composition.
‘What a nice pink rose you have in your hair’
I said. The girl stopped crying – smiled
Looked at her mother and back at me
‘Thank the man’, the mother said.
‘I’d like to wear a pink rose like that
But perhaps not in my hair’, I said.
Quickly, as the bus rocked us down Kilburn Park
I did a crude pen sketch of her – a squiggle for the artificial rose.
Gave it to her ‘That’s the best I can do on a bumpy bus.’
She smiled again
After a while, peaceably sitting down
Holding the scrawled likeness in her hand. I watched her face
Reflected in the glass shielding us from the bus door
Her long gazes at the picture.
Before I got off, after half an hour of quiet
(And still no poem) I said ‘Goodbye –
Sorry it’s not a better drawing
Shall I write your name on it?’
Her mother in her foreign accent offered ‘Rosalie’
‘Rosalie on the 328 bus
17 FEB 2011’
I didn’t write a poem
Nor did Portabello Road’s ephemera boxes
Offer a poetic found object
Perhaps I’ll walk on the edge of the Thames again.
For all the sketches, paintings, photographs
Of soldiers …
There is no peace.