Poem – My Brothers Shadow
Can one grieve for something not yet lost?
Only the promise of it?
Can one breathe deep and free the summer air,
Yet count the cost?
Or look upon the emerald shore,
The sea thrift cliff and golden sands, yet mourn?
Where the skylark sings, oblivious overhead,
Knowing not its immortality,
And the exotic painted ladies,
Born to thistle, soon Africa-bound.
The lighthouse will still be there,
Painted all in white,
Pristine in the eye-watering light.
And beyond it the sheltered bay,
Where stonechats chat and the seals, heavy lay,
Like Hardy’s hollow where he played.
The poem is about a walk around Start Point with my brother, after his second cancer diagnosis.
It’s a single-track, narrow cliff path and as I walked behind him and saw his shadow, it reminded me of a walk we had to cheer me up after my own diagnosis. It was so beautiful we could hardly believe it for all the bursting life around us. Neither of us was sure if it made us feel better or worse.
I have referenced my brother’s favourite poem: The Self-Unseeing, by Thomas Hardy. He visited Hardy’s childhood cottage in Dorset recently and saw the ‘hollowed and thin ‘ floor where Hardy had played his violin in the family home.
I also got in a reference to Shelley’s To a Skylark.
The creatures mentioned were all seen on our walk and there’s a huge patch of thistles in a field occupied by cows where the Painted Lady butterflies return each year from Morocco to breed.
Just before the caterpillars pupate they reduce themselves to a sort of DNA soup before emerging as a butterfly, capable of making the long and perilous journey back to Africa. Isn’t nature amazing?
I thought I’d better explain as you might wonder what I’m on about!
Written 25th June.