Part of the trouble at the moment is that I have about a dozen poems that I’m semi-writing. Which sounds good, but isn’t. They start to interfere with each other – ideas jumping poem mid-stanza, emotional tone blurring across, etc etc. I have no known upper limit for self-sabotage. My writing friends are very kind about it all, but still make the odd “well there’s an idea for a poem!” comment.
Enough complaining. On with it.
There’s a poem I’ve been working on for a while now, loosely in response to Ted Hughes’s October Salmon.
The seed comes from a night when I was on my own at home. It was when we were living in The Parlour, high up Curly Hill, across from Ilkley Moor. Sometimes cloud would fill the valley (Wharfedale) and hide the town from us completely. Just the lights from the Cow and Calf pub, opposite.
A couple of times the clouds seemed to swirl down the valley as though it was under water. Very strange.
I was in bed, reading the anthology Wild Reckoning (Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, 2004), and I’d just started the Hughes poem when a plane passed overhead.
It was so loud, I genuinely thought it must be crashing. I was out of the bed and across the room without even thinking. Waiting for it to tear into the roof – I could actually hear the air screaming through the landing gear.
And it really was close. Close enough that I could see individual faces in the porthole windows. The pilot must have been coming in to land at LBA, and somehow started his descent too soon. They didn’t crash, but it looked (and sounded and felt) for one of those endless moments like they must do.
I kept watching from the doorway, until it rose over the edge of the valley and dropped down the other side. It looked for all the world like a huge fish, launching itself out of the water. I made a note of it in my journal, meaning to come back to it later.
Which ended up being two years later, when we’d returned to NZ.
The date in my journal was September 11th, 2004.