Incident at Grantley Manor

By Stephen Edgar b. 1951 Stephen Edgar
Seven o’clock, the time set in his mind
Like herbs displayed in aspic, as the chimes
Were striking. Then the squeaking of his shoes’
 
Black leather tread, pacing those measures down
The first-floor hall, where sunset’s apricot
Was oozing nectar through the open doors.
 
Her voice, conspiratorial and astonished,
Called him across the bedroom’s drowning cube
Towards the window. How well Miss Waterson
 
Remembers it: “Please come and look at this,
Mr Devine;” the clock on the mantelpiece
Rehearsing for the hour of seven. She pointed
 
Down. There, a moving picture on the lawn,
His father, like a patient whose long months
Of immobility meant learning afresh
 
The art of walking, climbing the light’s green slope
Towards the summer house, looking intently
As though for a cuff link or a signature.
 
That evening he still thinks of, lying now,
No longer needing lessons for his legs,
How he cast back his glance and saw the windows
 
Blazing like cats’ eyes on his uselessness,
And in that golden mirror, two gold figures
Recording him, two shadows of dark gold—
 
Miss Waterson (was it?) and another one—
And then took out his watch on which the hands
Were so meticulously assembling seven.
 
Young Emily, appointed just the week
Before, came rushing to the stairs—she’d seen
Him stumble—to advise Mr Devine
 
About his father’s fall. And so, almost
Immobilized herself in that clinging syrup,
She observed the hall clock’s quaint rendition of
 
Seven, the time set clearly in his mind
Like summer herbs in aspic, as the chimes
Were striking. Then the squeaking of his shoes’
 
Black leather tread, pacing those measures down
The corridor, where sunset’s apricot
Was oozing nectar through the open doors.
 
Her voice, companionable but astonished,
Floated across the bedroom’s drowning cube
As he descended. How well Miss Waterson
 
Remembers it: “Please come and look at this;”
And Emily, who had just been taken on
That week, came rushing to the window. She pointed
 
Down, smartly on the stroke of seven. There,
A moving picture on the lawn, was old
Mr Devine, like a patient whose long months
 
Of immobility meant learning afresh
The art of walking, climbing the light’s green slope
Abstractedly towards the rose garden.
 
That evening he still thinks of, lying now,
No longer needing lessons for his legs,
How he cast back his glance and saw the windows
 
Glaring like cats’ eyes on his helplessness,
And in that golden mirror, two gold figures
Gesticulating, two shadows of dark gold—
 
The new girl (was it?) and another one—
And then took out his watch on which the hands
Were so laboriously assembling seven.
 
Miss Waterson, with Emily behind her
In a panic, dashed to the stairs to find
Mr Devine, anxious to let him know
 
About his father’s fall. And there they saw him,
Almost immobile in that clinging syrup,
And heard the hall clock’s muffled tolling of
 
Seven, the time set firmly in his mind . . .

Stephen Edgar, "Incident at Grantley Manor" text from Lost in the Foreground, 2nd Edition, Picaro Press, 2008; audio from Photography for Beginners, Audio CD, River Road Press, 2007, by permission of River Road Press and the poet. Copyright © 2007, 2008 by Stephen Edgar.

Source: Photography for Beginners (River Road Press, 2007)

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Poet Stephen Edgar b. 1951

POET’S REGION Australia and Pacific

Subjects Living, Growing Old, The Body, Time & Brevity

Poetic Terms Free Verse