THE FLOATING NATURALIST


And which of us shall step outside
to count the years we have
been adrift bereft of family
bereft of a kind of love bereft of I can't think
of anything else we have been bereft of
(England having nothing left in her vaults)
and where has all the punctuation gone?

Here we be, hammocks a-swingin'
red splosh a-splashin'
and stainin' our virginal gowns
How shall we ever go so innocently to the dance now?
Tristram, you borrow five guineas of me
which is ten guineas more than I can spare
It's just another ordinary day

One of the grizzled gardeners rides his bike
around the grounds
looking for a shady nook in which to snooze away
what remains of Friday afternoon
I'm digging a hole behind the tool shed in which to hibernate
Winter is coming
though we have a few weeks of grace
before the ice hits

There goes what looks like a five year old girl in a school uniform
dragging a suitcase along the road
She's clutching a Nokia
it made me want to be from the past
Then I realized I was
and in this the uncertainty of my age
I contemplate nothing while entertaining everything
if only because there is danger in a vacuum

Our neighbour opens his door
to cough his cigarette lungs into the already
polluted air, butterflies reel, mosquitoes plummet,
a lackey drives a coach and horses through
the five-year plan grown into a ten-year suggestion
amid flowers of the field, harvestings of redundancy
demonstrations of annoyance

Look for the treasure hereabouts – don't give up –
go catch it with traps and nets, trickiness to get
you by, deceptions masquerading as duplicities
geometries faked up to look like algebraic topographies

–no idea what that means –

islands of the Sun where Apollo hangs out
his washing our laundry
flapping as it does in the West Wind of our weather

If we knew what we were missing as we sleep in
The Golden Glove we should re-write The Golden Grove
all the cards adorning the mantelpiece of the family home
and the porcelain puppies  – a gift to a mother on a Mother's Day –
would shake off the dust that obscures them
and dash off for a romp on the lawn

The air may be re-breathed, words uttered
lost on the baleful breeze
but all may be forgiven as the universe is reclaimed for post-Romanticism
political rants pushed to the back of
the cupboard with the cockroach corpses
only the drone of drones and the stirrings of dawn breaking
the silence of our sleep

I have to say I cannot find the words to express how I feel cut loose from all this 

The ocean is a welcome calm
clouds fluff-balls of balm
Time may fly past invisibly but it doesn't matter any more –
there is a nameless grace renders the daily round the routine
the diurnal course a matter of nothing more than semantics

Today on the K3 we chatted about dolphins
how they and whales have the sense
sometimes to contemplate the ending of life and do it
and I told you about Moby Dick
and its tales of whales
taking the same path year after year
to appear in the same place at the same time
and I thought about the day job

Courage lads! I see land –
or at least, I see trees on the horizon
or what look to be trees –
though this red wine sure do have a funny taste
though it's still quite a good bit of splosh
in the circumstances
dreams are to be had and dreams are to be savoured
but when we set out on this adventure all those years ago
did ever we dare to dream this? I forget
what I was thinking

It's been a bit of an uppity-downy ride
The splosh got spilled –
they should have wiped it up and said no more about it
(The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman
,
Volume VI Chapter II, Penguin edition 2003, page 371)

     © Martin Stannard, 2016