I’ve shown Alan Robert’s writing before. As one of my students he’s produced some hilarious accounts of the things that happen to him.However this one is different. I asked the students to read a prose poem and to compose their own, using the poem they found for inspiration.
I imagined a former collier sitting alone to read Amy Lowell’s prose poem, entitled ‘Bath’:
The day is fresh washed and fair, and there is a smell of tulips and narcissus in the air.
The sunshine pours in at the bath-room window and bores through the water in the bath-tub in lathes and planes of greenish-white. It cleaves the water into flaws like a jewel, and cracks it to bright light.
Little spots of sunshine lie on the surface of the water and dance, dance, and their reflections wobble deliciously over the ceiling; a stir of my finger sets them whirring, reeling. I move a foot and the planes of light in the water jar. I lie back and laugh, and let the green-white water, the sun-flawed beryl water, flow over me.
The day is almost too bright to bear, the green water covers me from the too bright day. I will lie here awhile and play with the water and the sun spots. The sky is blue and high. A crow flaps by the window, and there is a whiff of tulips and narcissus in the air.
He closes the page and his mind drifts back to his life in the colliery and he writes his response:
‘I sit in the twilight and set aside her memory for mine. A memory of a time spent below, hewing the pitch-black gold grasped so tightly in Mother Earth’s clutches and Her moaning its loss through the slatted steel roof above our heads and in the pitch-pine props on which our very lives depended. The smell was not of tulips and narcissus but dank mildewed neglect, of lives lost, chewing gobs and fear; that familiar friend to us all.
‘I see the stilted, shadow figures to-ing and fro-ing along the cutting lines; their fitful movements reminding me of choreographed fantoccini. From the working guts we rush for our place within the Gorgon’s mouth to be finally spewed from that Hades hellhole into the warm comfort of the steam filled, polished white tile, pit-head bath.
‘There sunshine squeezed through the misted bath-room window in an attempt to penetrate the discarded black dust. Its refraction bent in near defeat until a myriad of droplets caught in its falling rays are forced to dance, and dance; our worn-out reflections pirouetted across the greenish-white, peeling ceiling. I hear the crescendo of hands pummelling alabaster skin with its blue/black medals worn for all to see. Soiled soap suds scatter across the cracked, crimsoned tiles until their sun-flawed transparent bubbles rock and reel out of sight.
‘Outside the sunlight is almost too bright to bear, the stench of carbolic stalks the path home. We had no time to play in the harvest fields but to run home and await another day of turmoil. That day the sky was blue and high. A kestrel hovered overhead, and there was a whiff of summer bluebells in the air.’
© ‘Bath’ by Alan A Roberts – February 2017