A diary

I like my diary a lot.  It’s big and bright and yellow and demands I remember to stuff it in my bag as I’m out and about and adding in appointments I shouldn’t forget.  I like to leaf through its pages in idle moments, because on nearly every page, there’s a poem: an old one; a recent one; a classic; or one that’s, to me at least, unknown.

Here’s the poem I found this week.  It speaks to me, though I’ve never been to Africa, and it’s very many years since I worked in Surbiton Library in Surrey.  It touches me with its imagery of rich and different landscapes lost, at the same time as rediscovering the softly-washed colours of once more familiar territory.  No-one would compare France with Africa.  But they might recognise the bittersweet feelings of regret yet acceptance that accompany those of us who come home after some years in a very different culture.

After Africa

After Africa, Surbiton:
An unheated house, and flagstone pavements;
No colobus monkeys, no cheetahs scouring the plains.
Verrucas and weeping blisters ravaged our feet.

An unheated house, and flagstone pavements,
And snow falling through the halos of street lamps;
Verrucas and weeping blisters ravaged our feet;
But the shavings made by our carpenter, Chippy, were as soft as bougainvillea
                     flowers

Or snow falling through the halos of street lamps.
Everyone was pale, pale or gray, as pale or gray
But the shavings made by our carpenter, Chippy, were as soft as bougainvillea
                     flowers …
Red, African dust spilled from the wheels of our toy trucks and cars.

Everyone was pale, pale or gray, as pale or gray
As the faded carpet on which
Red, African dust spilled from the wheels of our toy trucks and cars.
Real traffic roared outside.

A faded carpet on which
Everything seemed after Africa, Surbiton’s
Real traffic roared outside –
No colobus monkeys, no cheetahs scouring the plains.

 

Mark Ford.

You can listen to Mark Ford reading his poem by clicking here.

Mark Ford: Selected Poems was published by Coffee House Books in 2014: ISBN 978-1-56689-349-7

6 thoughts on “A diary”

  1. What a wonderful diary! I hadn’t read this poem before but it does capture the ‘homecoming’ well. When we came back from out three years of travelling we found the UK grey, and unwelcoming. It became a daily challenge to force a hello or good morning from people as we walked our local paths. Thank you for sharing Margaret.

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  2. This is a wonderful diary! I just use an app on my phone now but I do remember having evocative and pretty paper books like this. I especially like that it has poetry. I am completely unschooled in poetry and, yet, when someone encourages me to read something like “After Africa,” I wish I took the time to read and understand more.

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  3. Funny – I’ve been using an electronic diary for years and yet I still miss a notebook diary – can’t figure out why I don’t go back especially with great ones like yours complete with poetry.

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