It’s the Summer Solstice today. So, do I have any profound, poetic musings to offer, to mark this meaningful occasion? Well, no, I’m afraid not. The poem “In Search of Chalk” cannot be said to aspire to any level of profundity. But it does have a connection to Summer.
It’s coming up to that time of the year when people start preparing for their Summer Holidays. These days, of course, we Brits are no longer confined to the traditional British Seaside Holiday; but some of the coastal resorts still have their attractions. A couple of years ago, I visited Dover for the first time, and “In Search of Chalk” is a memoir of that visit. It’s one of my more informal poems; episodic, fragmentary, no traditional rhyme-scheme. You could look at it as a sketch, or a photograph – a “holiday snap”, in fact. Holiday photos are often a haphazard jumble of impressions, but occasionally they can capture an instant perfectly. And that’s really all I was trying to achieve with “In Search of Chalk”: a compressed impression of my day at Dover.
In Search of Chalk:
“Excuse, please, we search the white cliffs”.
You wanted to say, in your best
Germanic accent, to the next
British person we saw.
“Gateway to the White Cliffs” we had seen.
We entered the portals, but found
no promised land. Time seemed endless, as we
walked, stumbled, climbed; enmeshed
by hills of quotidian green.
Then, a glimpse of white
around a corner. Then another.
Soon, we were kicking up
chalkdust, shouting, taking
photos of each other, against
dramatic white backloth.
Looking across shimmering expanse.
“Is that? . . . “Yes, it must be”.
We paused, awed, for a moment.
The ominous weight of history.
We had walked around,
above, beyond the whiteness;
not realizing it was there,
beneath us, all the time.
You had patches of white
on your clothes for weeks.
Marks you couldn’t erase.