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Prose Poem: St. John

St. John 

George Miles’ photobook ‘VIEWS of MATLOCK BATH’. A gift from my sister. On one page one banal image? An echo? A photo almost contentless. Silent. A hawthorn bush or two. A soil-creeping grassy slope. A featureless and overcast sky.

But the page is a trigger.

***

Memories retrieved. […]

A moped. Pride & joy. And freedom. ’81 perhaps ’82? Each Saturday I met my girlfriend for lunch. So grown up. She worked in a chemist’s next to the Crown Hotel. We’d lunch at The Ritz. Not ‘The’ Ritz you understand but a Chinese restaurant above the cinema. We’d chat to Mr. Lee, over fried rice and prawn crackers – the cheapest items of the menu – and feel sophisticated. We’d walk back hand-in-hand. I’d promise to ferry her home. The moped hardly had power enough to propel me, but the responsibility for returning her the five miles up the Dale felt part of our grown-up act.

With time to kill. A whole afternoon. I’d walk. Always, always the same walk. Along Hall Leys and Knowleston Place, up Stoney Way to St. Giles’ and through the graveyard, passing Granny Allen’s grave, to the War Memorial on Pic Tor. After a pause to perhaps take up the view, it was down the zig-zag path through spindle woods and the midden, beneath the railway line and onto the footbridge in Dale Road. Up St. John’s, passing Common Wood, to the chapel and the mud path that led behind The Rocks and over the fields back to town. I walked that walk so many, many times.

***

Winter drags on. Mud lines serried. Scars. Set rivulets. Beaten lead sky under puddles and oily. Hedge etch. Larking. Sparrow fussed. Rabbit bobbed. Whitetail. The walk. Predictable. Routine. Ritual. It’s long ago and now. And me. But not. Some younger me. Away, a long way from… again I’m losing it.

Strive to trove the truth, to hold it close, horde the haulk of dry stone high. Rock corridors constrain the treescape an e-scape a close and closed world within world. I wait. Walk & wait. And watch. Listen. Kill. Kill time as if it’s in abundance. After (later) realise there’s no time at all. Some wholesome contained-ness forever & ever was that walks myth.

So. Now. I. Bot_tle it. Br_eathe in. In-gland. Id-land. I-land. Memory’s a meagre morsel leaving me hungering. Re-minded. Re-membered.

Same walk. Step-step. Trip-trap. Silen_ced. Sssh. So long. Walk. Eng_long walker. Step it up. Internally. Haul up the walker and dust it off. Chapel. Cottage. &mud. Soil creep. Cowslip. Whipping wind. High wall(s) and sky.

The light is all memory.

Fixed. Fixed. A holding dear.

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