I hope you’ve had your fill of pancakes – Lent has begun! For many of us, it’s a time of contemplation leading up to the joy of Easter – but it’s also, of course, a time for giving up or taking up things. My brother has gone vegetarian for Lent (taking up vegetarianism or giving up meat, depending on how you look at it) – this excites me greatly, mostly because he has teased me for being vegetarian ever since I started, in 2001.
I’ve been watching a couple of arty programmes lately – The Big Painting Challenge and Portrait Artist of the Year – and it got me wanting to take up something creative in Lent. One artist said he had a New Year’s Resolution to paint a self portrait every day. Any sort of artwork every day seemed impossibly time-consuming, but I decided I could manage a poem a day. There’s always the option of a single rhyming couplet on hectic days. (And the project would require – yay – stationery!)
Perhaps I should emphasise this isn’t because I think I’m a great poet – rather it’s that I want to practise it more, and I like the idea of a record of Lent to look back on. I’ll be trying lots of styles, tones, and forms (though my go-to form is always something which takes a rigid structure and shakes it up a bit), and I will probably share some of them here, if people are interested. In fact, here’s day one – I thought ‘beginning’ was a suitable theme, and it was my jumping-off point for writing this one, as well as the title.
She is there in a house on a cliff,
Facing out to sea and out to land,
The place both meet; the place where both begin,
A refuge for escapers, holidaymakers,
From all that’s past that’s not permitted in.
In a room in a house on a cliff,
Cold with age and waiting to awake,
The day begins; the dying back of night,
A light-switch makes a lighthouse of a cave;
A wary hand declares ‘let there be light’.
In a room on the edge of a cliff,
She finds that she has walked to every wall,
To use each sense; to know that they are there,
The witnesses to something wholly new,
But witnesses which must stay unaware.
In a bed in a house on a cliff,
Blankets form a powerless defence.
The warmth may come; perhaps she has to wait,
For now no walls can stop the creeping cold;
The world outside will always infiltrate.
In a house on the edge of a cliff,
Caught between the country and the coast,
The last escape; the first place to defend,
Sometimes an end is the beginning;
Sometimes a beginning is the end.