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Part one of my mothers short story ‘Death of A Poet’
All little boys play havoc with life, surprised the bird they slay with their homemade slingshot won’t wake up and fly away. He, though, is one of a kind. At the age of seven he makes his first killing, a deer on the Yorkshire moor. He dreams it back into life. It turns into a woman with oyster pearls for eyes.
Tall, heavy-boned and broody-eyed, large hands with blunt fingers, a Heathcliff figure set amongst the black capes and mortarboards; he eats his first peach at age twenty-five. A taste so fine his spine tingles and leaves of desire fall off trees.
Women love to sniff him, smelling the fruit consumed in longing and anticipation. They lap up the lofty tilt of his coarse eyebrows. His words are a great tool to uncover the other in each set of lips they offer. Out of the mix he picks the perfect one to summon their sweetness. Everyone says he has a gift for melting womanly flesh. No one can guess a delicate taste plucked from a stall at Charing Cross Station has triggered this soft epiphany of realisation. His friends don’t know. All they can do is step back and let him take the male lead in the lady’s drama. He has the sort of appeal that rings bells and opens doors.
He is only a lad, a youth not in the least worldly but whiffy of the earth, volcanic lava bubbling like a holy writ just beneath the surface.
Mildly curious and unreserved, he runs his eye over the Fullbright list. She cheeses out at him in her American candour (is this before or after his tongue tingles) and then he forgets yet remembers the picture. The grin falls short of the daddy-damage or whatever it is she clutches so desperately squeezing out the last acidic drop. She relishes the sensation just as he savours the peach. It makes a distinctive combination.
She baits the hook and casts the line. He glimpses the lure out of the corner of his eye. The choice is his. This he cannot deny. He opens his mouth wide. She gets a grip of his tongue and worries it with her own. There is a poem she writes he dislikes. He chooses some thorny words. These fit with the yet unsaid she holds so dearly. These words spill in a wanton flurry and she scurries about shoving them into her mouth. Gobble, gobble, her lips open like a greedy fish in this hopeful wish for more.
He forgets the grandmothers’ wisdom or perhaps has never heard it. Beware the woman who opens her ears and silently teases out your secrets. She will collect your spilled heart and churn your leaked guts. You’ll fall in love with your own words and mistake them for her.
They play with their mates. Bright sparks all, they spin stories of love and war, talk to the full moon and catch the ocean’s wake. It is she, though, only she, who listens truly. All the rest pretend, eyes wide, lips parted, but only she can recite his words back to him. She has learned the age-old techniques, rhyme and rhythm – neither is aware nor even cares that in this she’s lacking reason.
Once he is hooked for certain she draws aside the curtain hiding her deepest love. That wild thing has already married her soul and is a jealous lover. Is this a competition? Her words tip out in a rush. The more she bothers them the less she is in control and they fold her uncompromisingly into their sting. Still, by tradition she knows only one can shine. He ate the luscious peach. She drank the sour wine. Reclining in the back seat, she slips further into hell. Children, she hopes, will settle the dust and dampen the taste of the tainted grape. It is now too late for him to recall the old women’s wisdom.
The globe succumbs to their tacit demands. His words become the ones they praise. Such insight… Such imagery… A young poet with a god’s soul… The way his words soar and fold you whole… They plead for more.
Part two will follow, so stay tuned 🙂