Discovery of a 1936 Riley in a Suffolk Garden
‘Even now there are places where a thought might grow...’ Derek Mahon
Behind the thickened yew hedge of an abandoned house,
among the skips and the scaffold poles,
a family of voles crowds inside the back seat of a 1936 Riley Merlin.
Their horsehair nests lie within a metallic world,
warm among the dripping toxins and rust.
Why should they crave more?
The generations weave among the jagged steel,
while far outside, wars roll on and civilisations rise.
Their tiny ways are honed to their dark deprivation,
held safe from the kestrels patrolling the morning sky.
Many are the generations, their small bodies mummify -
their home born of neglect in the Macmillan days,
when the slam of a door spelled the final departure
of the aged motorist and his veil of woodbine smoke.
He passed on that night, leaving all to slumber,
except for the voles biting through the leather, the stuffing crumbling.
Now woodworm and nettles prevail amid the general collapse,
as occasional sounds reach the dusky inside from afar -
a tractor’s throb in the field nearby, the tripping peel of wedding bells,
or the double crack of a shotgun in the distant wood.
Even now there are places where we can lose a treasure -
African wells, dried and neglected,
filled with death and dust,
a sharp smell lingering in the air, and wire grass
rustling fluid as fire on the dessicated banks;
In the village clearing, where sand trickles into tins,
a dry wall tumbles with a resigning sigh,
a hyena skull bakes dry in the sun,
a bottle winks half buried in the sand;
- and a dilapidated motor car in Lawshall, Suffolk.
Forty years, undisturbed, without even starlight -
no expectation of the ripping back of the door -
until the sudden crack of timber. Explorers, cameramen,
inhale the quiet remnants of pre-war peace.
With furious scurrying, like bullets through cobwebs
and holes, a culture shatters
in the sudden sunlight of discovery.
Meteoric boots land, dispersing these cloistered lives.
Grown away from the hedgerow, living free from fear of the hawk,
their eyes stare back level and expectant from pockets of gloom.
They would wish, of course, in their tiny hearts,
for us to leave them, to abandon them to their warmth,
to close the door and walk away.
Lost species - stuffed dodo and harpooned whale -
the silent island forests and the empty oceans.
‘Leave us be’ say their eyes. ‘Do not rip out our homes -
we that have lived here so many generations.
This is all we know.
Close back the door on our precious space
And let us prevail in our world of peace.’