A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Cornflower Blue

Cornflower Blue
was the song on the tape,
Cornflower Blue
on that lost weekend,
that last weekend.
Cornflower Blue.

As we pushed you round
the Harlestone Circular
through the bluebell wood
to the gingerbread house,
walkers were too polite
or too embarrassed
to stare at your wheelchair
bumping and lurching
along the rutted track.
The countryside

wasn't made for it.

Later you sat bolt upright in your bed,
eyes transfixed in a laser beam stare.
You couldn't speak.
Your brain tumour had seen to that.

For us, wine and cigarettes
dulled the pain.
We went to bed,
laughing loudly
to prevent us crying.

A week later
in a phone box with my dad
we heard that you had died.

my dad seemed older
and smaller.

We went back to the Norfolk cottage
and told my mother, who wrung her hands,
looking, beyond the cows,
at some point in the middle distance,
stoical to the end.

But my gaze swivelled up,
away from the flint farms and mucky lanes,
into the big sky above
hanging like a blue lantern.

Cornflower blue, oh cornflower blue.
Yes, it was cornflower blue.

(This poem is in memory of my sister, Elizabeth, who died on 3 August 1987 from a haemorrhage caused by a brain tumour. She was just short of 30 years old. Coincidentally, Kate Wolf - the wonderful San Franciscan folk singer who sings Cornflower Blue on one of her albums - died a year earlier from leukemia at the age of 44. I have never written a poem before about my sister, or her death, but for some reason I awoke this morning with most of this poem already half-formed in my head.)


gleaner said...

Sometimes the world can be so cruel it doesn't make sense. However, this poem does make sense. A beautiful gift for your sister.
I like how you interweave your memories of the landscape around you.

am said...

That's a moving tribute to your sister. Thank you for posting it. Intriguing how these poems are coming to you now.

Lorenzo at the Alchemist's Pillow said...

A mystery how our unconcsious mind chews on these materials and so many years later produces something as poignant and immediate as this beautiful poem for your sister.

I couldn't help but thinking of a poem I read a few months ago by Gibbons Ruark. You can see it at the following link (http://poems.com/poem_print_large.php?date=14241), but I also paste it below:

Words to Accompany a Bunch of Cornflowers

Those beads of lapis, even the classical
Blues of dawn, are dimmed by comparison.
When I hand you this bunch of cornflowers
The only other color in the room
Illumines your eyes as you arrange them.

They are the blue reflection of whatever
Moves in you, serene as cool water tipped
Into crystal, oddly enough the willing bride
To a cloudy head of melancholy
So deeply blue it could prove musical.

This is the blue John Lee Hooker’s gravelly
Voice in the sundown field was looking for.
This is the unrequited dream of an iris.
Ice blue, spruce blue, little periwinkle blue—
Nothing else that dies is exactly so blue.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks so much for these comments.

Gleaner - oh yes, 'art' (not that I'm making such a great claim for my poem, but you know what I mean), creating something 'meaningful' out of the random, chaotic and tragic experiences of life - yes, that's the only thing that makes sense to me...

I had to bring in the landscape. For me, everything happens within a specific landscape. I've always seen things that way. Everything in the poem is 'true', the Harlestone Circular really exists, as does the gingerbread cottage...

I don't know where the poem came from. It was one of those 'gifted' ones - as I said, almost half-composed already when I woke up.

I think my recent trip - with much time for contemplation - had a lot to do with it, as you intuit, am.

Lorenzo - thanks so much for that poem. It was truly wonderful.