I have heard it said many times that men returning home after World War 1, very rarely spoke about their experiences. I expect that there are some sights, sounds, smells and sensations that cannot be conveyed adequately with words.
My father, now in his 80s, living with dementia, would, every year, as a member of the Territorial Army, go on a fortnight Summer camp to Germany or France leaving me at home with my mother and I used to miss him terribly; inevitably becoming ill with anxiety. I would count the days until his return and wait, patiently, until the key turned in the door latch, or, I would see him alighting from the bus that stopped at the end of our road; and I would tremble with excitement at his imminent return.
Some years ago I wanted to conflate these two ideas - using written words to convey something important, and, breathing some life in to my experiences of loss and anxiety.
To this end I wrote the following poem, called Angelica Waits, which has been sitting on my hard drive.
Inspired by Lex's more recent blog, I thought I'd share it with you.
Do you have strong childhood memories that could grow in the light of day?
Her tiny face pressed hard against a frosted window,
Angelica waits for her father to return home from the war.
A silent vigil marked only by the tick of time.
Her swollen liquid eyes mirage his form,
Like a watercolour in the rain.
Her vapour breath revealing his image on the cold glass.
Outside, in the snow laden air, the ghosts of Ypres
Tumble like feathers on the landscape of her dreams.
Each gossamer crystal flake falling like a slow motion death.
In a trench filled with mud and fear Angelica's father,
With her photograph welded to his hand,
Brushes away his salty tears from roughened cheeks.
Her form masked by cigarette and mortar smoke,
He whispers into the rotting darkness, his voice a trembling oasis,
'Angelica, Oh Angelica how I miss you.'
In Autumnal sunlight with long dark fingers of winter pointing north,
Angelica's face, crumpled like a telegram, looks towards the sky,
'Don't be long,' she whispers, 'I don't belong.'
A Moodscope member.