I just found this. I wrote it a short while after the suicide of a fairly elderly former neighbour some years ago now, which left me feeling I wanted to honour the things I knew of her, her family, her past, which was also something of the history of our village. I wrote a few things, but felt and feel it is slipping away from me; the distance I have as an outsider is a mixed blessing. The old people are disappearing, and many of the younger ones too, one way and another. Too lazy and guarding of my own space, I don't talk enough, don't ask enough questions, I listen but still miss too much. On the other hand I value what I do learn, I hope I use it creatively but with honesty and respect, without undue romanticising or abusing the inevitable picturesqueness of the foreign...
Under the lime trees of the Sacred Heart
Under the lime trees of the Sacred Heart they learned to sew,
The girls, that was. What the boys did I'm not so sure,
Woodwork perhaps, or telling stories of a man so drunk,
Who lived at La Belle Brise, he drowned in the ditch,
The tadpoles and the salamanders slithering about his head...
It was a happy memory. The sewing stood her in good stead,
Earned her a living, and later, as I saw her in her porch in winter sun,
Seemed to bring her calm, a purpose and a pattern, music in her hands.
The lime trees stand there still, cool and fragrant, densely shading
Other children now, and also wedding drinks and open days,
Grand, whole and unmaimed, escaping saws and winter fires.
They spoke only in French at school, the rule was, fixing firmly
In their merely Gallo-Breton heads, that French was something other,
Harder, colder, finer and more difficult,
Than the kind or cross and working words you spoke at home.