This poem was long-listed in the Cookham Festival Stanley Spencer Competition 2017. The long-listed poems are published in Stanley Spencer Poems: An Anthology, edited by Jane Draycott, Carolyn Leder and Peter Robinson (Two Rivers Press, 2017) The poem both imagines what Spencer might be doing were he still to be an artist in the village today, along with images from his paintings and present day Cookham life.
Listen to Still Here:
The angels are wearing badges now,
beautiful pewter signs of greeting,
welcome! welcome! Or else those plastic
holders of identities that say we are carers,
we care for you, as you grow old in frame,
rise in stature, as your hearts lift
to the bells pealing out across the pasture
where I wanted to lie down with You,
but had to wait, and instead bathed
those feet in a flush of sunlight, seven
pairs, under the table, their twisted toes,
interlinking as a matter of faith,
as though we knew time was short.
Man hath such a short time.
Down at the Ferry Inn, the waiters are tending
their flock with cappuccini, mind they don’t spill,
stirring memory in the time-honoured way,
eat this, drink this. The water washes
high against the path as the trippers cruise by.
Can you do swans? the visitor asks
the tattoo artist, newly set up
from his caravan in the car park,
but wishing he was out with a handcart.
I want a swan on each arm, necks twisting
around my biceps, so their wings tuck
up on my shoulders, and their beaks point …
where? He hasn’t thought that far.
And his girlfriend, her arms warm and doughy,
asks for a magnolia, flushing pink
over her magnificence. He worries
about the permanence, the commitment
of the ink, the necessity of leaving
some Things undone.
© Karen Izod, 2018