Toady Tells Me, Over Tea and Tabnabs

For Brian Rudd

 

My father was Boy Toady and I was

Young Toady. Grandfather was Old Toady

and when he died we all moved up one.

Winterton people had nicknames

because there were too many in the village

 

with the same name. On a drifter,

there might be two Bob Greens asleep

below so if you're going to call the watch

you need shout up Bob-the-devil

not Bob Crow to get the right one.

 

In the George family there was Social George,

Cuddy George, Jack Starchy, Bill Starchy,

Eddie Starchy, and Punch George. Punch

George drove a big lorry into Yarmouth.

There'd be about eight hundred men and boys

 

to cart from Winterton for the fishing. Mute,

(I don't know why they named him Mute) he was

a Goffin, and he had two lorries. There was Fizzle,

Flat, and Fatty, Duff, and Dumps, Jello, Poachy,

Fourboat, and Eric Kettle who we called Teapot.

 

"Toady Tells Me Over Tea and Tabnabs," by Marion Starling Boyer, from The Sea Was Never Far. Main Street Rag. 2019. (Use requires permission of author).

AFTER THE TELEGRAM COMES

 

 

I dream of the black hush

in farming sheds, far off

 

in Yorkshire, where rhubarb

crowns are forced without

 

a scrap of soil or light.

The air is warm there,

 

scented with coal fires

and the wool shoddy

 

tucked about the plants.

The quiet is so deep

 

farmers hear the rhubarb

grow – the buds' soft pops,

 

their rising stems creaking.

In all that darkness

 

harvest is a ritual

of shadows. Candles flicker

 

atop iron poles and throw

the pickers' hunched shapes

 

against the walls as they

bend to cut and cradle

 

the pale stalks, row after row,

standing at attention.

"After the Telegram Comes" by Marion Starling Boyer, from The Sea Was Never Far. Main Street Rag. 2019.  Published by The Tishman Review and  selected by Lit Youngstown for their 2020 calendar. (Use requires permission of author).

AIRSHIP, JANUARY 1915

 

 

A piece of smurry night broke off,

silver and fish-shaped. It drifted closer,

 

shimmering, massive as a god.

The navigation light was a single slow-

 

moving star and the ship purred as it glided

over. Our upturned faces lit with appalled

 

fascination. Lost, windblown off course,

the zeppelin lowered, sprinkled the lands

 

with parachute flares – small fires

wafting down –

 

and found its way to Yarmouth’s

cluster of coastal lights where Baptists

 

were closing the midweek prayer meeting

with the refrain singing to welcome

 

pilgrims of the night. Martha Taylor sat

at home knitting a sock. She set the needles

 

down before turning the heel, her fingers’

misery worse for the rafty weather.

 

On the road a dog barked and barked.

Two streets over, Liza walked the floor

 

with the baby, worn out, in a frap.

An unfamiliar throbbing noise drew Sam

 

Smith, a cobbler, outside to stand

with others in the wet.

 

The men in the gondola

wore fur-lined shoes with rubber soles.

 

They warmed themselves with coffee

from a thermos. One, lying flat on his

 

stomach, peered through a trap door

and dropped the first aerial bomb

 

ever to fall on England, and then nine

more, managing to ruin a church, to blow

 

apart buildings, a fishing drifter, Martha

in her chair and Sam standing in the rain.

"Airship, January, 1915" by Marion Starling Boyer, from The Sea Was Never Far. Main Street Rag. 2019.  Published by The Atlanta Review as a finalist for their International Poetry Competition 2018. (Use requires permission of author).

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