I took my notebook and pencil in my pocket and scaled the back fence. My mother was at work down the road at the old people’s home and my father sat alone in front of the television. My sisters and brothers were scattered throughout their rooms.

A voice in my head called out to me,

‘You must find nature.’

I hankered to go out in someone’s car to the countryside, to be among the green hills, the trees and the sheep, but all I could manage was a long walk down Farm Road to the as yet built Farm Road Estate.

There was a point along the way where the concrete on the road stopped and the path was made of gravel. At that point I knew I could turn my back on the houses and streets filled with cars and people.

In front of me the skyline was dotted with Lombardy poplars and pines. Tall majestic trees that forced my eyes upwards to the clouds and the sky.

I was priming myself for the life of a poet.

On one side of Farm Road a cyclone fence protected passers by from the golf balls that flew overhead on the Cheltenham golf range. On the other side, a long line of dilapidated sheds gave off a stench of long dead chickens. These, too, I saw as a last line of humanity, after which the countryside, once row upon row of market gardens now abandoned in readiness for the housing estate, prevailed and I was free to find a spot, a tree against which I might rest, take out my notebook and with pencil in hand, write down my lofty thoughts.

The very act of writing down the words, inspired by the skyline, the lapping of leaves on top of the Lombardy poplars, the thought that they once came from Italy, their forebears a sign that the world outside was vast and immeasurable, and I became an important someone in this universe because I was a poet who could write down words in my notebook and the hours and hours of wasted time, spent during the summer holidays doing nothing but killing time would come to measure something of worth.

‘Hi,’ a voice called to me across the fence. A man in cap with a caddy and golf stick. He called through the wire, and I wondered, had he lost his ball?

My brothers sometimes came here, too. But not to write down beautiful words. My brothers came to crawl through the stubby grass on the edge of the road to look for stray golf balls that had somehow managed to get over the cyclone fence. They took them to the golf course manager at the clubrooms in the centre of the golf course where they could trade the balls for money.

I looked at this man and felt a flicker of annoyance. I did not want him here. I did not want anyone here. People interfered with the flow of my thoughts.

I was like Wordsworth, a man worthy of words. I was the creator of glorious scenes from nature and brought their beauty alive on the page.

‘What are you writing?’

Annoying question. None of his business. But I had been brought up well. Not so much that I did not speak to strangers but that I would offer something of my more polite self without interfering with my intentions.

‘Poetry,’ I said and turned back to my page by way of dismissal. Wordsworth never had to put up with interruptions like these.


The author as would-be poet.

7 thoughts on “Poetry”

  1. Strange as it might seem but this could easily have been me you were writing about. Nature and I were once inseparable and many of my early efforts were written whilst wandering through the countryside or down the beach. Like now we lived on the edge of the town. All I had to do was walk to the end of our avenue—all ten houses—and that was me, left to the river, right to the shore or straight ahead through the gold course. Yes, I used to collect gold balls too but I never sold any of them. I think my brother might have. He used to go caddying too. I’m afraid I was only interested in the golf course when everyone had gone and, preferably, when it was dark. Like the young you you describe I once believed inspiration was a thing you could locate, that it existed in places like ponds and streams. Not sure when I lost that but it’s gone for good. I think part of the problem I found with it was it failed to touch the spiritual in me because there was no spiritual there to touch. Wordsworth moved from a pantheistic to a Platonic to a humanist view of nature over the years; clearly the man was searching. I too looked to Nature for something but I just didn’t get it. What I liked about outside—the isolation—I found I could get inside by just shutting a door on the world.

    1. We’ve talked about this before, Jim, this childhood sensibility towards nature. We also share it with Gerald Murnane, and many other writers I suspect. I sometimes wish I could recapture some of that childhood awe, but it seems harder these days. Thanks, Jim.

    1. Sorry about the absence of the poem, Kirk. In those days it was all about gesture with nothing of any worth to show for it. It’s great to see you here again. Thanks.

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