The Friday Poem on 15/09/23
We chose ‘The Wheel’ by Kathryn Bevis to be our Friday Poem this week. The poem describes the gradual disintegration of a life in meticulous, well-observed detail, using traditional festival dates, from Candlemas to New Year’s Eve, to mark the passing of a calendar year. It perfectly conveys a sense of creeping destabilisation, the pain of loss, and the inevitability of death. It’s a brave poem which stares unflinchingly into the void, and reports back.
It begins like this: in January a single stitch
slips from your needles. By Candlemas,
your paintings, shelves of knick-knacks start
to stray along the walls. Tongues wag
at primary school gates. At Harestock Garage,
the cashier muddles up his change.
By the time Beltane arrives, your socks
unpair, your books unalphabetize.
A crowd throngs in your garden,
waits. We stand from Lent ’til Summer Solstice,
watch your bookcases flatpack, your china
thrushes, wrens, flamingos ascend in a great
gust. Aghast, we see the cat cascading
from your lap. By Lammastide, your whole life’s
harvest starts to slide. We hold a single
breath between us as we see you reaching
for your man. An ecstasy goes up as he skids
skywards between your arms with the leap
of an electric eel, a bar of soap shot
through sopping hands. By Autumn Equinox,
your house unmoors and sails down Taplings Road.
At the glass, you transmogrify before our eyes
— a white-nightied speck. November 1st.
All Saints Day’s here at last. Our solid ground’s
unsolid now, our road a riverbed. Palmists,
vicars, wise ones prophesy by Yule
your body will up-anchor, your breasts
untether, right then left. They say your spine
will wander, your brain uproot at last.
They say a slithering liver will finish
off the task. Who can tell what’s next
for those of us still left? Come New Year’s Eve,
we’ll clasp our children close, raise a glass
to old acquaintance gone, test our lives
with spirit levels. The wheel rolls on
and on and on.