Overheard on Sled Lane in Winter
Treading cautiously downhill, on snow, sludge and ice, slipping slightly, I saw two worn men, their heads bent toward each other, strict Covid-metres apart: creased brows confiding feelings, bald heads, carelessly exposed. They saw me. Nodded, smiled and said hello in that old-fashioned, courteous way. I returned their greetings, passed by, heard drifting skeleton-words, she was so good to me, when Margaret went. Was Margaret his wife? Was she a friend, lover, neighbour, daughter, sister, doctor, carer? Supermarket cashier? Sparse clues cued my thoughts to loss and comfort, pain and kindness: life. In that country lane, three pairs of eyes brimmed, red-rimmed by cold winds and warm thoughts: connections, like mycelium, running underground. Ode to My Pencil Oh, leaded pencil, with your scarlet rubber tip held securely in the grasp of your patterned metal shaft. I found you on a woodland floor, abandoned, dropped in error by a careless hand. Their loss, my gift. Each morning, I greet you, finger your smooth and slender length, before using you. How I love to feel you as I puzzle my hard sudoku and quick crossword to launch the start of each new day. Together, we search horizons for dawn’s warmth in new-born hours, and spot-on answers to fire my sluggish brain. One day, we cannot deny, you will wear down, get lost or break and no knife or sharpener will revive you. Know this, my dear friend, instrument of comfort, of letters and of grace, you will never be forgotten even if in time, you are replaced. Until that end arrives, let us join forces, work together as I gently chew your rubber, stroke your lead, crease my brow and concentrate. Grieving for Great Grandma I find my chin on her face, sepia printed ninety-five years ago, skin bleached by flash-bulbs. Flares burst melancholia through my wide eyes. My dormant heart is reached, moved by the sight of her, defences breached. Her curved belly cradles her child, a girl herself, unwed. Good chapel preachers screeched, demanded she repent her sin. A pearl ring, often fingered, recalled love’s mad whirl as downcast she listened to God’s judgement spat from men’s mouths. Her father, not a churl, tried to take her part, yet gave his consent for his daughter to be shamed, to maintain status. Devastated, she went insane. Partial Synaesthesia I hear dog roses pulse pink to white left to right, flutter in gusty coastal breezes. Can perfume pour through ears, sounds swim in noses Memories mix, palettes of purple, violet and cream smell warm, of scones, melted butter, sweet jam – always blackcurrant. I taste green, yellow, Granny’s 4711 cologne whispered from her skin. I touch her chapel singing voice, clear, chill as mountain pools, light as seagulls’ feathers. I see reverberations, out of sight waterfalls churn, tumble over stones and tree stumps. My sixth sense instinct, jumbles limbic stirrings, tunes notes to ice-cream symphonies while monkey’s blood runs refrains. My adult body, taut and worn, yields to childhood dreams of safety. Again, my nose hears, my eyes touch, my ears see, my fingers taste, my tongue smells milk. And I am held sated, warm, flooded, damp, at ease. Note: monkey’s blood – North East term for the sweet, red sauce often squirted on ice cream cones Blessings My age is one of slow weakening: joints snatch, memory mists, eyes cloud and senses subside amid streams of years racing onward, ever faster past. I am happy to be here to greet Spring. Ceinwen E Cariad Haydon (MA, Creative Writing, Newcastle University, 2017) Ceinwen lives near Newcastle upon Tyne, UK and writes short stories and poetry. She is widely published in online magazines and in print anthologies. Her first chapbook is 'Cerddi Bach' [Little Poems], Hedgehog Press, July 2019. Post-retirement from social work, she is developing practice as participatory arts facilitator. She believes everyone's voice counts.