Thursday, June 06, 2024

My Level Best

 —Poetry by Stephen Kingsnorth, Coedpoeth,
Wrexham, Wales
—Public Domain Photos Courtesy
of Stephen Kingsnorth
After ‘Home’ by Edward Thomas

Frequent had I passed this path
but now it felt I never left
or could be other than this place.
My home, one principality
we knew, I and the grasses blown,
one echo sown.

They greeted me.  I had returned
twilight it seemed from somewhere past.
The March of bud, freeze thaw, the norm,
said the same terms, familial
both good to us, though stranger too,
yet quite unblocked.

The finch from his beechloft down the way
gave his finale, or nearly so;
and as completed, from the oak,
a further one had opened notes,
but last, for sure, as I too knew,
the dusk had come.

When by his grey sight cott side gate
the carpenter moved on by, his soles
slow, part for tiredness, part release,
that through the stillness, from retreat,
the voice of sawtooth bounded all
that stillness bred.


The mantel is ingrained with flecks,
the knots removed before the plane,
spokeshaved to smooth, its shelf a gain,
display of tree-branch photographs,
and planished cups by forebears borne.

Grit honey stone surrounds the grate,
the quarry of sweat clawing men
who saw the shape of things to come,
their own Carrera in its form
as wall of inglenook performed.

The fangled fireguard, curlicues,
forged as copies, ancestry,
blown bellows, hammer, anvil, tongs,
then beaten, through for filigree,
malleability refined.

There, beaming from the ceiling, lines,
so architraves above the panes,
patina, winter smoke and soot,
oaks felled, now ringed by curtain hooks,
their canopy of greens restored.

That shorn of sheep, my cushioned stance
as I survey this living room,
beneath greyed slates once mine now roof.
Even the fruit bowl, chased round rim,
holds apples, ancient orchard seed.

Its lore, how life is, disobeyed,
first crabbed, then orange jelly, mould,
decayed like Medlars, bletted, core.
Grandfather’s clock chimes future now,
but stands by rock of ages, cleft.



I do my level best, down stairs,
sure, shaky start, finding my feet,
till shod in slippers, toe curl grip;
descent, more handrail grab than neat,
with abseil leap, pillboxes hand,
bridge, arches, landing pad, sole sweet.

By waddle ducking, weaving ways,
I’m going surfing, gentle waves,
for laptop dancing, mancave days;
it’s all well balanced, scale of things,
with rise recliner taking strain
less one wrong switch, ejector seat

But on the level, I am good;
though pitching deck of rolling ship,
we set centre of gravity,
that moment, weight fix sombre sway.
The tempo quickens, lurch then brake,
not master of my dancing limbs.

And yet my measure holds the room,
its spaces, handholds, place to twirl,
the pitfalls noticed, noted, marked,
a steerage class as stand alone.
I am a journeyman of sorts,
apprentice moonwalker it feels.

Now rôle as floorwalker my goal—
I do my level best downstairs.

We’re told it’s love or hate affair—
or cupboard love, assuming there;
for those who choose, but thinly spread,
not smothered, mothered sons so dread.
My choice when sick, poor appetite,
light-covered toast as last night bite;
distinctive wafting, extract yeast,
as care climbs stair with snack or feast.
So there, a jar, Valentine treat,
not candlelit, but right and meet;
for common prayer as table fed,
partner, companion, sharing bread.


As comfort, night time malted drink,
a pattern followed, by the clock,
without good reason to disown—
why would I end the day alone?

I’m told that change is all around,
I’m not an island to myself,
or I’ll be simply left behind,
which is my lot—as I remind.
Change marks growth, from seed to bloom,
but do core values yet remain,
the mannerisms, polite style,
courtesy, respect, second mile?

While yes, there’s much so strange to me,
it is routine, my leading star,
for I need anchor, taking strain,
secure hold, less their binding chain.
They have my ways mechanical,
when customary more my frame;
I sense my five alone will guide,
but well-worn paths from synapse hide?

Now dado, carpets, green I see;
this path I’m sure goes to my room.
But when the bell chimes in my head,
the corridors are meat and bread.
So here I am at bed and board,
with folks uncertain who they are;
that night-time malted drink my own,
so I’ll not end this day alone.

Today’s LittleNip:

—Stephen Kingsnorth

We see not daytime stars,
but know, on course, there;
night dark makes wonder, bright.
So though looming darkness scares,
we concentrate on sparkle light,
less shower meteors are due;
then the blackness offers pool
from which spot streaking star.


—Medusa, with thanks to Stephen Kingsnorth for today’s fine poetry and pix~
 —Public Domain Photo Courtesy
of Joe Nolan, Stockton, CA

A reminder that
Grant Faulkner will read at
Poet in Davis tonight, 7pm.
For info about this and other
future poetry happenings in
Northern California and otherwheres,
click on
in the links at the top of this page—
and keep an eye on this link and on
the daily Kitchen for happenings
that might pop up
—or get changed!—
 during the week.

Photos in this column can be enlarged by
clicking on them once, then clicking on the x
in the top right corner to come back to Medusa.

Find previous four-or-so posts by scrolling down
under today; or there's an "Older Posts" button
at the bottom of this column; or find previous poets
by typing the name of the poet or poem
 into the little beige box at the top
left-hand side of today’s post; or go to
Medusa’s Rapsheet at the bottom of
the blue column at the right
 to find the date you want.

Would you like to be a SnakePal?
Guidelines are at the top of this page
at the Placating the Gorgon link;
send poetry and/or photos and artwork
to We post
work from all over the world—including
that which was previously published—
and collaborations are welcome.
Just remember:
the snakes of Medusa are always hungry—
for poetry, of course!