For a taster of poems from the Border and Beyond … Follow link to Dropbox here
***2016 will be the 25th anniversary of my journey in poetry – an anthology of bardic poetry is planned: Silver Branch from Awen Publications. Due Winter.***
(some formatting might be lost)
Before Harborough straddled the Welland
the Domesday scribes only recorded
Flecheniel, Alctone, Chiburde, Lutresurde.
Now Fleckney, Hallaton, Kibworth, and Lutterworth.
Words get worn down – like shoe-heels and soles.
They need cobbler-smiths to repair them.
Walk on Harris Falkner, setting up business in
the Sheep Market in the famine-starched 1840s –
establishing his eponymous firm,
a familiar sight on the High Street for over a century.
Harb (Market Harborough to you and me) – a place of commerce and industry:
making corsets, table cream, pea flour, instant coffee, round tea-bags, rubber soles,
printing type, vehicle batteries, package holidays, fashion, footwear…
The door bell jangles. A good day to you.
Another customer. Busy is good. Busy is money.
People’s feet are my stock-in-trade.
Handle them every day, so to speak
– like Jesus washing feet –
not that I’m making comparisons mind.
Down-to-earth, that’s me. Salt.
A cough, a burp (pardon me, dodgy guts –
they run in the family),a slurp of tea.
Humming along, hammering,
to Elvis or Frankie Avalon.
You enter a leprechaun’s grotto.
A cobbler’s den. Leather offcuts loll like ox-tongues,
racks of wooden feet –
embryonic Pinocchios, awaiting legs,
a chipper Gepetto.
Yet real magic is spun here,
by the sweat of the brow.
An atmosphere of graft,
of time-and-motion scuffed
floorboards, punctuated with tacks.
A Burall Brothers calendar hangs from the wall.
November 1959 forever preserved in amber.
A list of customers written on in lead:
9th Holyand; 13th Boyd; 18th Gupwell; 30th Eisker.
Notes to self scribbled – Sheiling stuck toe,
Pen Lloyd’s heel restricted in right boot.
Under the counter – Needler’s Chocolates,
Fry’s cream tablets. Indulgences for St Crispin’s lot.
Left on the shelf, tins of bygone brands:
Royal Stag ‘suede dressing’ from Malvern;
‘Start Rite’ utility shoes for kiddies;
1 dozen pairs of Blakey’s leather plugged tops;
Tuxan shoe powder;
Ministry of Food national dried milk.
Poised for a well-earned cuppa,
a pot-black kettle on a wrought-iron stove,
pumping out heat to stop fingers from freezing.
A tin of strepsils for that tickly cough.
Peppermint altoids for collywobbles.
Sure-shield fruit laxatives for unmentionables.
Gifts for future archaeologists to glean
the metabolism of this cobblers clan
when this treasure-trove is unearthed
from under the feet of Jetson Harb-folk.
I’m the Market Harborough sole man.
Buddy Holly on the radio, godreshissoul.
D.A.s and petticoats. Bobi sox and flick knives.
Chewing gum like cud,
like that James Dean, poor sod.
Teddyboy loafers layabouts.
Don’t know their born.
Lucky to have shoes on their feet.
But us Falkners, well,
we’ve always been well-heeled.
A magic circle of crayons – to touch things up.
A toothbrush, a paintbrush – tricks of the trade.
Their master, telling by his absence.
A Marie Celeste of shoemakers:
tools left, mid-job.
The clock stopped at 6.17, am or pm?
The hum and rattle of the lathe, silenced;
replaced, decades later, by
the laughter and shouts of half-term kids
playing raucously with Roman helmets, a hoard of lego-bricks.
A man on a mobile: ‘Y’know Kevin, once he gets his bit between his teeth…’
A young mum says to her pram:
‘When you’re my age, you tend to repeat yourself … ‘
Exquisite ladies’ boots on display
as slim and tidy as a sonnet.
Refined toes, primly pointing to a preferred destination
Keeping up appearances,
polished and pretty as a Liberty Bodice Peter Pan – a
neutered Puer aeternus,
forever in Neverland.
‘Little Boy Blue come blow your horn,
Wherever the Liberty Bodice is worn,
Wherever you go
Let all the people know
That children without it are sad and forlorn.’
Young spirits, strait-jacketed by strict parents.
Time is corseted here. Its soft flesh squeezed through
the whale-bone hour-glass.
Behind perspex now, the fingerprints of visitors,
there is Kim-lace for every type of shoe:
non-slip; s-t-r-e-t-c-h and strongold boot.
Blakey’s grindery list lays fading on a table.
A tin of Mulliouids, band-aids
by the short desk of tools,
The tap-tap, tap-blast! That’s a black penny in the swear-box.
Many a bruised thumb,
a pierced fingertip,
a bubble of blood mixing with the dubbin and spit.
Copyright Kevan Manwaring 3 June 2014
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