The Philosopher of Endcliffe Park
In late summer, at five o'clock in the morning, Endcliffe Park is sleeping.
The birds are dreaming of yesterday's worms. The runners,
still at home in their living rooms, have not finished their stretching.
The rubbish: the empty lager cans, the satellite corks, the skin
of half-eaten sausages - are all awaiting the dawn.
Even the sun-stained grass, no longer suppressed
by the movement of flesh, cannot keep open its eyes.
But beneath the mantilla of oak and beech, a philosopher stirs.
And yet at first you would not suspect this individual, crownless
and possessing only a rucksack and pillow, to keep on his bluebell lips,
the secrets of the earth, the secrets of 4.5 billion years.
For even the squirrels do not offer him respect. Nor does the wind,
whispering in its Aeolian tongue, pass through his knotted hair.
The philosopher, after shaking antiquity from his stiffened joints,
takes up his usual position beside the meandering stream
and with a deep intake of breath, begins to jump in the dark.
The glow of the morning's traffic soon appears through the leaves.
An engine backfires, destroying the silence. A church bell -
the tonic of the ascetic - is rung a second too late.
The philosopher jumps until his body burns with lactic acid.
Shortly before noon, with the temperature rising, a passer-by
finds the philosopher stretched out on the path. The philosopher,
pointing his hands to the sky, has a mouth filled with flowers.
A butterfly, Vanessa atalanta, lands on the passer-by's back.
Removing the flowers from his mouth, the philosopher sighs:
"For even beauty, in time, must break beneath the beating wings of butterflies."
In deep winter, at five o'clock in the morning, Endcliffe Park is sleeping.
A frog slumbers below the ice of the frozen pond. The runners,
enveloped in the comforts of bed, dream of the sun on their arms.
The hoarfrost clings to the iron: a children’s swing, inanimate
and undesired, becomes transparent in the quiet.
A newspaper, half-buried in the snow, recalls the recent death
of a man - aged fifty, with no relations and of no fixed abode.
A slow severance, or a delayed discovery?
A drawn-out process
fruiting in Prague, probably, oddly.
Sheaf field’s distant voice rising like a flock of disturbed geese,
first heard in the days when it was
no more to me than the home of elbow grease, work,
the terror of Jordanthorpe flats lurking on the
horizon; remember The Tripods?
A Wednesday shirt bought blind by Dad (tennis-lover),
and my eyes now yawned constantly at football.
Poring over Match, Shoot!; harvested
statistics, poster of Palmer,
Harkes et al. Owls in their ascendancy.
And then walked on progressively
More and more a Biblical Peter,
Called by many Lords of Steel, Ale; all the while
Childhood friends falling into
elsewhere, into better,
Leaving me hung-over at Staples, or passively loving
The Leadmill, Mark Linkous with a vocoder;
Fry-ups at Forge Dam, the jingle of the kid’s ride,
Daily living just the right side
Of squeezing into a bargain-rail career;
hesitant, but finally ashore, one Midnight, here,
seventy miles from the sea,
holding my wife-to-be, her wondering,
As I held her, frangible,
So if no longer a Peter, who is he?
And in Prague (to explain), she sees platinum, we promise,
And I espouse my citizenship.
The prompt asks you to choose a word from the list, feel the weight, dissect it, get close and
under the surface.
I choose water and my head fills with rain, I sense the hiss of drizzle against my face, hear heavy clouds break and release, this downpour bounces off pavements, my coat is soon wet, clinging heavy on my back.
I hold a stone rubbed smooth by the sea in my palm, I'm watching the waves from the shore, repeating tides draw me in, a hypnotising rhythm, a soothing breath... flowing in and out.
Bobbing fishing boats, anchored for the night, ropes clinking against masts in the harbour. A catch awaits, trawl deep for bulging nets, wait for the pull, chains clatter, winches strain to reveal a haul of silver treasure, alive with glinting eyes and flickering tails.
Landscapes marked out in ice caps, solid masses, shape shifters, eroding with a steady drip. Oceans fill, tides twist and rotate. In another world, surfers vigorously paddle, rushing to ride the rising waves.
Steam spirals skywards from thermal springs, holiday-makers take the trip for rejuvenating, mineral enriching promises. Wallowing in the shallows, faces masked in mud, break with laughter.
On a far-flung track, the group follow their sun-stretched shadows, walking miles for water, bare feet kick up dust, soaked t-shirts stick to skin, humid and hot, strained faces are streaked in sweat.
Thirst cracks in my throat, with ease I turn the tap, fill a glass to the brim and drink.