Cooling

I wrote this poem for the 2016 Dickens Festival, at which Jaye Nolan from the Roch LitFest kindly invited me to perform.  It is about a spot which the young Charles Dickens used to frequent and about which he would later be inspired to write.  The poem flicks back and forth between the real life and the fictional, and notices a common feature of both – urgency.  Urgency of characters, urgency in the landscape and even the swiftness of the final disappearance of a deadly illness.

Idyll boy, brisk stride to glide
the cool pear orchards’ nettle grove;
benign Woodpecker-drums
provide the beat for Charles’s urgent feet.

He will one day
throw this light
to where a man, all clanking teeth and crashing irons,
grips young Pirrip
by the lozenge tombs of holy siblings;
boyish bundle caught between
the icy felon’s quaking grip and
cruel Malaria’s last grab.

He’ll have them hasten to
the cockle shells and silent bells
of priestly lighthouse, overseeing dark-scar Thames
which rushes seaward on the savage wind;
meek creeks with hidden teeth
that bite the less decisive roamer.

Offender,
fever,
anxious boy alike
evacuate from stronghold marsh’s cooling spot
like lapwings’ brisk hawk side-step.

Ride a blossom-scented ribbon
over fuzzy plain to view
the world or words of fretful orphan
and his swift idylic friend.