Saturday, April 26, 2008

In the sunken lane

The following is something I submitted for the latest qarrtsiluni edition, which has the mouthwatering and intriguing theme of 'Nature in the cracks'. A lot of people evidently found it tempting, as they received a very large number of submissions, and the ones they've published are of very high quality. They finally decided this didn't make the final cut, though they were very nice about the photos especially, but said they couldn't agree. That's fine, as Jean said about the photos in the last post, acceptance or rejection is not the point. I wasn't too sure about the text myself; it's neither prose nor poetry, and rather rambling and shapeless, like an overwrought (and somewhat morbid) blog post perhaps! So that's what it will be.

In the sunken lane

The sunken lane is a fissure, with no clear beginning nor end, no junction with the road, gouged deep between the fields so that, walking there, cows graze and crops grow above my head. Some half-way down it is an enclosure. A mossy concrete slab covers...what? Something apart, forbidden, circumscribed. It is not a grave, I assume it is a well.

A wilding lilac, mauve in May among yellow broom, stands at its corner; surrounding it are fractured fences of crumbling wood flaked with dull green paint,

friable, lichenous concrete posts,

their surfaces and clefts infibulated with barbed wire

and embossed with the oxidising nodules of iron rivets.

Briars and brambles spring and coil among the untensioned wire,

and ligatures of ivy bind the concrete, like the carved decorations on Victorian tombstones.

The wood is becoming inert and stoney in decay, while the thorny stalks and stems merge with the wires that mimic them. The organic becomes atrophied and mineralised, the man-made, metal and silicate appears vegetal. The boundaries between states are mutable, uncertain here.

The well is not a grave, but a child might think it one. Death and murder, not altogether shielded, stalk the child's imagination.

" There is a dead body in the old car, Miss! David saw it, there is..."

"Someone was murdered going over the Blue Bridge last night, on her way home from school..."

And yet, and so, the boys appropriated the rusting wrecks of cars in the hollow, through the fence and out of bounds, just as we crossed the Blue Bridge in secret to build camps in the ruined lock-keeper's cottage. Ivy and sycamore saplings colonised the fallen walls, and we made man-traps over holes in its bewildered garden, to catch the bad men.

We crossed the Blue Bridge and skipped across the forbidden lock-gates, far from fearless, daring ourselves on the vertiginous edge of the basin, its stones greened with algae, ferns sprouting from the cracks around its rim. To fall would likely have meant death: I could not swim.

The well is not a grave, yet wells are uneasy, deathsome places. Like darkness by electric light, their necessity in our world has been largely banished by mains water. We fear the bottomless drop of them, their cold blackness, their slimey, inescapable, vertical sides:

" Ding dong bell, pussy's in the well..."

and Little St Hugh, child martyr, found dead in one, victim of a child-killer, blame and penalty for his death laid on the Jews at the beginning of a darkness of unplumbed hatred that submerged Europe.

Springs are clear and bright and healing, the living fountains, bounty from hard rock, images of purity, but about wells we are more ambivalent. Yet they are also sources of deep abundance, of hope and possibility. We pollute them at our peril.

The lane rises gradually and emerges, peters out, beside the long, kindly field whose hedge is palnted with mirabelle trees. Their blossom is fine and white early in the year, and, spring weather permitting, their amber and ruby fruits are there for the taking in the summer, heavy and glossy and falling in the furrows.


Rosie said...

i like the blurring of the barriers between natural and man made, real and imagined...

Unknown said...

Much to brood on here. This is about what time and weather do to man-made and natural objects, an interface offering many opportunities. That red briar especially calls for a second look.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely love this! And I do think it would have made a grand selection for Q.

Lucas said...

The sunken lane has something strange and unknowable about it. The boys who appropriate the wrecks of cars are in some ways the unacknowledged explorers of this territory. The prose writing of Walter de la Mare - with tales of the unexpected taking place in deep countryside - spring to mind. The opening paragraph takes you write in to this minute yet expanding world.

jzr said...

Absolutely lovely! It's their loss that they rejected it!

Lucy said...

Thank you all, I'm glad you liked it. Lucas, I've always had a fondness for Walter de la Mare, though I know little of the prose writing. I still love the bright, colourful, enchanting verse of his found in children's anthologies, but he also wrote some quite strange, occluded visionary stuff too. I suppose in some ways he was a bit outside of the stream of things in 20th c. poetry...

I am not grouching one bit about q; there is absolutely no shame in being passed over by them. They always get a lot of submissions, and I don't think many of them are rubbish. For this edition the number was up by a good 50%. The guest editors read, discuss them between themselves (only by e-mail as they're usually many miles and often time zones apart), reply indidvidually to all of them, with thoughtful and kind comments for acceptance and rejections alike, and they must both come to an agreement before publishing any of them. It's altogether quite alot to ask of anyone just for love.

They took a lot of time over this but simply couldn't agree ( I was also quite late in submitting it, though within the deadline). They can't publish everything.

Looking at it now, I like it and am pleased with it, aside from a few details - 'we pollute them at our peril' is too pat - but I think one of the problems with it is it wanders off the theme; it begins with the 'nature in the cracks' idea, and occasionally refers back to it, but then digresses onto the subject of wells in the collective consciousness, etc which is perhpas not unrelated but rather tangential... with a more work it might have made two separate pieces, but as it was an excerpt wouldn't really have stood alone.

It's the kind of thing that works fine on a blog, where discursive, exploratory, conversational kind of writing is usual, but for something like the q. theme, perhaps things need to be a bit tighter, be more to the point.

So I'm also happy that I can get past the slight disappointment and see it more dispassionately for what it is and what it isn't. This bodes well. I don't have access here to writers' circles, poetry groups etc to sharpen up on, so I need these opportunities.

Also makes me appreciate having the blog where I can do whatever I like, and such positive, intelligent commenters to cheer me on!

apprentice said...

I think it has lots of merit, but I'm glad that you can stand back from the rejection and take good things from it.

I agree with you that you could fashion two pieces from it, perhaps the photographs with short lines to match, I love the opening sequence, and a piece of prose taking forward the ideas of the wells, cars and the boys.

You're right to treat it like a useful critique session.

Avus said...

Lucas is right about the Walter de la Mare connection.
I particularly enjoyed the photographs - we obviously go for similar subjects.

Crafty Green Poet said...

I love these photos, the textures are stunning and I love the way natural and human made blend together. Lovely post, shame it was rejected but rejection is just something we all go through

Roderick Robinson said...

I'm sure I could find a use for "infibulated". Can I borrow it?