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The Level

There was a strange side-chapel
With a smaller organ that you pumped
With your feet
For rehearsals.
I remember the room as honey-coloured,
It probably wasn't
It smelt of mint and camphor,
Polish and dust, damp paper.
He let us
Pump the organ pedals
And play
Chords or scales,
Pulling out stops,
I can't remember if there really was one stop
Labelled 'Vox Humana'
But there should have been.
I can certainly remember a brass organ stop with
A ceramic fascia,
Highly glazed
And bearing those words
In a more gothic, italicised face than the
'Hot' and 'Cold'
Of the taps that I also half-remember
From somewhere,
Probably a colleague's cuff-links.
I imagine that one of us pedalled
While the other touched the keyboard or
Monkeyed with the stops
As we'd have been small.
Everything else,
Of course,
Was printed in Welsh
A scramble of consonants,
Ascenders and descenders
In unlikely thickets -
It looked like a thorny hedge on the page
With Jesus hiding in it every so often:
morwyn - a maid,
gwaith - work,
cwch - a boat,
llfyr - a book,
llythyr - a letter.
The door from the side room,
(It probably wasn't a chapel),
Led somehow into the chapel itself
And my memories of that are clouded further,
There was a great smell of polish
And the air was clotted with dark shining wood,
Tall organ pipes stretching up to the roof,
The music
And the word of god
Were both delivered from high up,
Resonating in the great wooden roof space.
As a child, the slits in the organ pipes
Looked like frozen, unhappy mouths,
And the pulpit like the prow of a ship.
Everything that could shine, shone
But the colours were all dark,
The light was all dark.
We, well I,
Had a real feeling of licence,
Playing in church,
Exploring unfamiliar corners
And vantage points,
Sucking on a boiled sweet,
Feeling that the image of myself up here
Would be present to me when I stood,
Hair neatly parted,
In the body of the chapel
Half singing along
In the strange language
These old people all knew.
The tunes were
Half-familiar,
The words incomprehensible
And all of the faces were
Pink, pink, pink


The Watch

I'll lay down my girl on a soft bed of roses,
Let her pale limbs sink in the cream and the red.
I'll lay my girl down of a soft bed of roses,
Make the sweet, scented petals her rosy bed.

I stay in the hills above the bright city,
Six months of the year and I sleep in the stone.
And cold and hard are the rocks of the mountain,
Cold and hard as I lie here alone.

And the work that I do is to watch here for strangers
To watch for them coming from over the range.
With my glass and my gun I watch here for strangers,
And my thoughts and my dreams are both of them strange.

For up in the sky I see a bright city,
Bright city and hills like the hills where I wait,
But the hills in the sky are all full of marvels,
Let me tell you the marvels that I see where I wait.

There are four golden lions that walk through those mountains
Four golden lions with bright wings of blue
And leading those lions are four perfect women
With horns on their heads like the crescent moon.

Clear streams of water flow down those hillsides
And in them swim fishes in the shape of pale hands
And ghosts walk the hard rocky tracks of those hillsides
Pale blue ghosts with faces like hands.

And I look at my hands as I wait on the hillside
And I see them move on the arms of my girl
And I cradle my gun and I think of her waiting
And I tighten my fists then I let them uncurl.

Soon I'll follow the horned women down to the city
In the form of a lion with the bluest of wings
And I'll walk to the house where my sweet girl is waiting
Leap the wall to her garden where the sweet birds sing.

I'll lay down my girl on a soft bed of roses,
Let her pale limbs sink in the cream and the red.
I'll lay my girl down on a soft bed of roses,
Make the sweet, scented petals her rosy bed.

(c) Jonathan Spooner 2002


Jonathan Spooner