Saturday, 9 April 2016

I Retrieve My Suitcase

Looking out of the Boeing 757 American Airlines window on the descent into Manchester yesterday, I remembered why I'd left England in March.  Though I'd since travelled through time and space to a southern Californian April, the sky still sat just as I'd left it - like a poorly fitting cold lid on rows of brick terraces.

Arriving twenty hours later than expected, after one cancelled and two delayed flights, my optimism - never my strongest suit - was low.  So when I directed my swollen feet as instructed towards carousel number 4 to find my luggage, I didn't expect to see the dark green zip-up case.

I bought the suitcase years ago, in the mysterious time before I became a mother.  I bought it after work one day in Telford for a Harry Shaw coach holiday to Austria.  It felt like an extravagance. My cousin Rachel and I had booked this trip approximately 30 years too early, according to the demographic features of our fellow travellers, and we giggled our way for most of the 24 hours of motorways, autoroutes and autobahns it took us to get to Salzburg, and then Vienna, whilst other passengers slept and snored.  I wrote Night Coach years later, which drew on this experience.

Writing poems often catches up with memories which have lain dormant for years.  I may one day produce a Californian set featuring the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, sushi and chopsticks, downtown LA, the size of milkshakes, Huntington Beach and its perfect, swift sunset.  Or I may write about the sense of passively patient trust I exercised waiting for announcements of further and longer delays in various departure halls, whilst other passengers struggled to quieten babies, or themselves, in the face of growing frustration.

After 45 minutes or so, I looked over to the right and my suitcase appeared.  Somehow, it had got itself off abandoned plane number 1- which never made it to London - and found plane numbers 2 and 3 to New York, then Manchester.  It couldn't quite lurch the last few feet to carousel 4, but its ability to find carousel 5 seemed, just then, as miraculous as an unexpected glass of champagne.

Night Coach 

The driver slows, turns up the lights,
announces thirty minutes’ break.
We stand, uncertain, falter down the aisle,
stretch our coiled innards in the grey air,
head for the high-lit buildings,
for thick coffee and drab toilets.

In the middle of the night’s morning
it is as if we’ve never known anything
but this restless dark.  Though we look out,
streaks of neon show nothing
but the partial road, and our blue-thin faces
suspended beyond the glass.

We return early, for everything is hard-won:
each mile, each moment’s sleep, each
snatch of story from the books we thumb.
We nod our caution to each other
as we climb back on, reclaim our seats;
for we recognise each other somehow,

know that we are those who must travel,
but who cannot afford the journey.

Monday, 4 April 2016

I Dry In The Sun

One of my favourite things to do is to dry in the sun - dry my body, I mean, although I do like to dry my clothes outside too.

Whilst I have had access to two swimming pools for the past couple of weeks, I haven't yet seen any solar-powered clothes lines in the back gardens of California.  This is odd, as the weather here is perfect for all sorts of drying and there are calls to save energy in other ways.  It seems that it's common to use a tumble dryer when the sun is casting precise shadows and the sky is clear azure.

Talking of clear azure skies, I'm about to go swimming again, for the sheer pleasure of drying off.  Afterwards, there will be something about the feel of being inside my own skin that's smoother, healthier, more content than anything a towel-dry can achieve.