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).