June Musings by Sue Wallace-Shaddad
The poet Clare Best, who moved from Sussex to Suffolk five years ago, has a new book, Beyond the Gate just published by Worple Press. Rebecca Goss writes of the book: Gently shifting between the intimacy of the domestic space and a deep connection with the natural world, Best shows us beauty laced with danger, darkness, flashes of fear. This exploration of love and loss considers how we hold and carry our memories, how far we dare to look ahead. Clare has kindly agreed to share a poem from Beyond the Gate which was previously published in Allegro, and nominated for the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem 2023.
My son’s first leather boots
It’s not the memories they evoke –
there are plenty, but I won’t list them here,
they might escape. It’s not the number 25
stamped on the instep next to a little box
that says Start-rite, nor the crusts of mud
stuck in the treads twenty-four years.
It’s not scuffed toes, heels worn down
in one particular place. Not deep creases
at the ankles where brown polish lingers.
Even if I cherish details, it’s not those.
It’s this: I have to close my door, sit
quietly and alone with love and mystery.
Clare’s poem reminded me of one I wrote in 2020 where I remember my father polishing shoes:
Spit and Polish
On Sunday morning, shoes lined up
like soldiers to attention waiting
for orders, polish tin unscrewed,
brushes at the ready.
The careful smoothing of cream
regular pulse of buffing,
piston of muscles at work
would leave their mark.
My father’s self-appointed task
to ready himself for Church
a fine figure in the front row
singing off-key. He read the lesson,
had the collection to count.
A glass of sherry on return,
smell of roast beef in the kitchen.
A smile. A job well done.
If you would like a prompt for some creative writing (a poem in this case), consider writing about a particular piece of clothing or footwear that holds memories for you.
I follow Clare (@clarepbest) on Instagram. She posts wonderful photographs of trees, plants and flowers and clearly has green fingers. I also share nature photographs on Instagram (@suewallaceshaddad), something I started doing during the first lockdown. It gave me an extra reason for a daily walk as I hunted for something to photograph.
Here are some photos from my garden:
The weather here in the East of England has been very cold for the last few weeks while Cornwall and the West has basked in sunshine – an upending of the usual weather pattern, it seems to me. We are already nearly mid-June and then the days will be getting shorter. It is amazing how quickly the year slips away, especially as you get older. So, my advice is: make the most of being young (if you are lucky enough to be younger than me) but also don’t hesitate to bring out your creative side when you are older! There are quite a few poetry competition and journals that wish to encourage the older writer: The Alchemy Spoon (new phase poets who have come late to poetry), King Lear Prizes (for over 65s – competition deadline 14 July), Second Light (for women over 40, though associate members can be under 40). Of course, most competitions and journals do not mention age at all!
Enjoy the summer solstice wherever you are!
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