tempus fugit

By ceridwen


My cheek was hit and hit:
sudden hailstones
pelted and bounced on the road.

When it cleared again
something whipped and knowledgeable
had withdrawn

and left me there with my chances.
I made a small hard ball
of burning water running from my hand

just as I make this now
out of the melt of the real thing
smarting into its absence.

To be reckoned with, all the same,
those brats of showers.
The way they refused permission,

rattling the classroom window
like a ruler across the knuckles,
the way they were perfect first

and then in no time dirty slush.
Thomas Traherne had his orient wheat
for proof and wonder

but for us, it was the sting of the hailstones
and the unstingable hands of Eddie Diamond
foraging in the nettles.

Nipple and hive, bite lumps,
small acorns of the almost pleasurable
intimated and disallowed

when the shower ended
and everything said wait.
For what? For forty years

to say there, there you had
the truest foretaste of your aftermath –
in that dilation

when the light opened in silence
and a car with wipers going still
laid perfect tracks in the slush.

A poem by Seamus Heaney in which the hail stones represents a child's loss of trust and innocence on first experiencing the slings and arrows of playground jibes and the sting of classroom rebukes.

Our almost-4 year old granddaughter has just started school (mornings only) and was reportedly curious about the qualities of hail on her way there this morning. Of course I hope she won't encounter any of the above  but childhood is a process of discovery,  of both pleasure and pain.

For anyone curious, Thomas Traherne's orient wheat is a reference to the 17thC. English cleric and metaphysical  writer's  passage about the inevitable loss of childhood innocence (see here). Legs Diamond was a 1920s Irish-American gangster notorious for escaping capture .

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