Elvegren Tales

BED

Past

Once upon a time there was a little house…

In this little house was a tiny bedroom…

In this tiny bedroom was a small girl…

And this small girl was seated on a massive bed.

I was that girl and the bed was my cloud. I sat there, like an angel with my books open, my toys listening attentively as I filled them in on the exploits of Amelia Jane Again and the folk from the Magic Faraway Tree.

At night, with my thumb in my mouth, I would wrap myself up tightly in the quilt my mum had lovingly covered for me with a pretty floral fabric, my head would sink into a matching covered pillow. The pervasive Dry Musk perfume she wore washed over me, a spiritual reminder of motherly love that would gently lull me to sleep.

My bed.

Made, with love, by my mum.

Present

This is my bench with a view.

It’s of the river with boats and shit.

But as the joggers jog

A man with a dog

Stops and it pisses on it.

‘Cheers mate!’ I say, looking up.

But he’s hot-footing it down the path.

‘Come again then, you dick,

And bring a big stick,

We’ll all have a jolly good laugh!’

I used to be an angel,

On my cloud with my toys, reading books.

But it all went to pot,

As dad drank a lot

And mum gave him reproachful looks.

Eventually she left us,

And my cloud felt all acrid and dead.

I walked out of the door,

An angel no more,

This bench, ever after my bed.

Dad drank himself to the grave.

I was just told about it tonight.

We didn’t stay in touch,

And no one cared much.

Although I think my mother might.

*

It’s been a strange kind of week.

Mum found me on my bench fading fast.

The day turned to dusk

As I smelled her Dry Musk

And she held me,

She breathed me,

Her tears soaked into me

How I long for this moment to last…

Future

So my future bed is my past bed but where there once was a cloud, with a quilt so divine there is now a simple divan, too small for my limbs and too lumpy for my back.

But I can stretch like a cat, if I dangle my foot over the edge.

I can curl up in a ball, as long as I avoid the middle.

I can sleep like a baby, if I have the radio on.

I can close the door on the world so that sleep can descend upon me without any fear.

I’ve had two beds in my life, not including a cot. One saw me through childhood, kept me warm, save from harm and nursed me through sniffles and coughs. One saw me through heartache, kept me down, save from no one and bought my mother back to me.

Given the choice, I’d be where I am now, complete with the lumps and the occasional misplaced spring. I’ll die in this bed, I swear, but not yet. For tonight we’re off out, my mother and I, made-up and with Dry Musk pervasive.

 

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©Lisa Lee 2012, 2014, 2016

 

 

 

RED

She never usually wore red but today was different.

“Tis only a whore that’ll dare to wear red!”

Her granny once told her, before she was dead,

“Fur hat and no knickers!”

Was another of hers,

“Especially on Sundays!”

I think I’ll wear furs…

She takes the faux fur coat from the wardrobe and tries it.

“I’m right!” said a voice from the pot on the shelf,

And she took it off quickly in spite of herself.

“Gran?” she said nervously,

And picked up the pot.

“You look like a cheap whore!”

She replied, “I do not!”

She sat on her bed with the pot in her hands.

“You don’t understand Gran, you don’t understand!”

She sobbed to the pot that lay cold in her hand.

“No, indeed I do not,”

Said Gran with a sigh.

“You’re a beautiful girl,

Explain to me why?”

She sniffed back her tears and started to talk.

“Remember Tom, Gran, with the dark floppy hair?

He told me he loved me then ran off with Claire!”

“He never, the bastard!”

“He did Gran, he did,

Now they’re getting married

And having a kid.”

She stopped her tears and looked down at her dress.

“I’m wearing this dress Gran, I’m making a stand,

I may look like a whore but it’s already planned.”

“Well, it’s not too bad.”

“I should be in that,

“That hideous peach dress,”

“What, and the peach hat?”

She looked at the peach mess that hung on the door.

“A bridesmaid? His bridesmaid?? You gullible fool!”

“I know Gran, I know but I knew Claire from school.

That’s how she met my Tom.”

“You stay dressed in red,

Bugger up her big day

And knock ‘em all dead!”

She loved her Gran, she did, though she couldn’t always talk to the pot.

“We’re scattering you next week. With Grandad.”

“Aw, well, that’s nice dear. Now, where’s your coat?”

long-red-dress

©Lisa Lee 2014, 2016

NURL

In a land of cats,

Far, far away,

There stands the angophora tree,

Where the kobold flits

From leaf to leaf,

Salchows from branch to higher branch,

Whispering her ancient plea:

“Oh almighty Nurl, I ask of thee,

Show me the sphendrone of this tree!

For these tresses of mine,

So gold and fine,

Are alas, too wild and free!”

A clowder of cats,

On this cold day,

Observed the King’s own jabberknowl,

‘Twas a sight to see,

The gunsel here,

Moved by our kobold’s earnest words,

He offers his Nurlish soul:

“Oh what kind of mana is this, pray,

That I see before me today?

The angophora there,

Holds a maiden fair,

For my Nurlish heart to slay!”

The mew of the cats,

Did not once stay,

The himbo’s now much heightened lust,

As their eyes first met,

Hers first, then his,

For a moment she thought it Him,

“A Nurl? Oh surely it must!”

“Oh sweet thing I implore you be,

Mine forever then you will see,

What a love I can give,

If you’d only live,

In the King’s castle with me!”

The eyes of the cats,

Fixed their wry gaze,

Trying to see her intentions

She looked at our chap,

Ozena filled nose,

Knew then this was doomed and did cry,

“A fico to your attentions!”

 

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©Lisa Lee 2014, 2016 Illustration ©Belinda Allen

 

 

Diet
My name is Bess. Bess May Smith and I have a tale to tell, though it isn’t really mine. It is the tale of my Granny but she is unable to tell it anymore.
Back in the black and white days, when ladies wore murky, long dresses and men were all uptight and combed their moustaches, my Gran was born. It was a rubbish time to be born, she told me. There was no colour in the world and children were not really liked by anyone, not even their own parents! That is why, she said, her mother left her in the village orchard. 
Her first memory is the smell; a gentle, soporific scent that wafted from the soft, green grass that enveloped her tiny body until she stopped crying and then lulled her into a dreamless sleep. From that first peaceful night she bloomed, protected by the canopy of the oldest tree in the orchard and nourished by the fruits it dropped beside her. She spent her first twelve years alone, my magical, beautiful Granny, toddling through the trees with an apple in each hand, then shinning up her ‘mother’ tree and weaving in and out between it’s limbs. Idyllic days, filled with innocence and an abundance of fruit. No one entered that beautiful orchard. It was a lost paradise, the railings and rusty gate overgrown with bind weed. Even the magisterial tree in the middle was viewed from afar as just part of the landscape. So she was safe, in one sense but quite lonely in another.
*
One day, so the story goes, a young man came wandering into the gated orchard and ambled purposely towards her tree! His legs were long and thin and he wore a jacket of velvet to cover his narrow back. She saw him through the boughs of her tree and her clear, bright eyes bore through his thick, curly blonde hair. He picked a fallen apple from the ground, sat himself down and leant back against the wide, gnarly trunk where he promptly fell asleep. As she held her gaze she found that she could see into his mind, his thoughts were like an open book to her, and they mirrored her own. She fell hopelessly in love that day, reading his soul through the leaves, breathless and still. She watched as his closed eyes flickered and a smile played upon his lips. Then suddenly one eye opened, followed quickly by the other! Granny squealed and (this is my favourite bit) fell from her branch, landing rather luckily and romantically, in his long velvet-clad arms. Now he was breathless, the only sound was the rustle of the leaves in the tree above them. Love is a magical thing you know. Really, it is.
*
That’s how my Granny met my Grampy. They built a hut in the orchard, to the left of Granny’s tree, and made a comfortable home. It wasn’t long before my mum, Rosie, came along. Never was a child more loved, never was a child so wanted. Her skin was pale, like her father’s but her cheeks were touched with the red that her mother held in hers. She fed on her mother’s milk for nearly two years – no wind-fell apples for this precious girl. 
Now the world had kept moving, the sun rose and set and progress, well, progressed. Rosie was a child of natural rebellion and so soon outgrew her orchard in the same way that we all outgrow our childhood home. The time came for her to branch out (that’s how Grampy put it, with a chuckle). But Granny was confused. She had never left the orchard, contenting herself with her beloved’s tales of ‘life beyond.’ My mum always said she was scared. You see, over the years and a diet purely of apples, Granny’s skin had taken on a slight green tinge. I think she looked beautiful but there was no denying that she looked different to other people. Grampy never pushed the issue, choosing to protect and cherish his wife wherever she wanted to be. That day, the day of Rosie leaving, everything in the orchard fell still. The tree bowed her boughs as Rosie wrapped her arms around it’s trunk, her tears soaked into the bark. They saw their precious girl to the now almost invisible gate. Granny watched as she slid through the slight opening. Grampy gave a jolly wave, put a reassuring arm around his wife’s shoulder and gave her a squeeze.
The End
The end? Of course not! All good daughters visit their parents and when you have two as special as my Granny and Grampy, well, you just try and stay away! Mum’s first visit was to introduce them to my dad. We don’t talk about that. All I can say is that, according to the tale, the tree, on seeing his face, shook her branches so ferociously, all her apples just dropped to the floor. One caught him a fine clout on the side of his head and fetched the tree a swift kick in return. Granny looked at her beloved and said, ‘Now there’s a bad apple if ever there was one.’ He nodded in agreement.
The next time mum visited, she was alone. Well, almost alone. There was me, like a little pip inside her tummy. Her parents received the news with delight and by the time I put in an appearance, mum was back in the orchard. She had a hut of her own, with a nursery for me and a tended garden roped off for my safety. That’s how I grew up! The same way my mum did and, almost, the same way Granny did. We were one very wonderful, magical  family with my exceptional grandparents holding us all together. Until Grampy died. Oh dear reader, my poor Granny. Never was a soul left so bereft. Death had never visited the orchard before, it had never even come up in their many conversations. He fell asleep one afternoon and just never woke up. 
*
In the days, weeks and months that followed, my mum and I pulled Granny through. Mum, by keeping house and organising the funeral. Me, by singing and dancing, with a smile on my face. There were many tears too but we did manage to raise the occasional chuckle from her. As she grew more peaceful and accepting of the passing of her beloved, Granny’s skin became darker. When she stood beneath the tree it was hard to tell the difference! Then one day, after mum had finished the housework and come looking for me, we found her stood there, smoothing the tree’s bark and speaking softly. ‘Mum?’ my mum called. ‘Granny?’ I added. But it was as if we weren’t there. Her body was still, as still as the tree she was caressing. We looked at her, her face was still so beautiful, still had the apple red blush on each cheek, the wide, dimpled smile that lit up her eyes, but her skin was now a deep green colour. Together we stepped forward and both put a hand on each of her arms. A flicker of recognition in her eyes, a single tear and she was gone. My Granny had become part of the orchard that had given her life, protected her, found her her soulmate and nurtured her precious family. Now it was time for her to pass on and I can think of nothing more fitting for my amazing Gran than to be forever rooted to the spot where she first cried, fell in love and said goodbye to my Grampy. 
Now that’s an ending. 

 

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©Lisa Lee 2013, 2016

 

 

A Home Is Something More…

A house is a home when somebody loves it.

So what is it, I wonder, when somebody hates it?

A hovel, a prison, a financial strain

With no sense of warmth and an aura of pain

That seeps into your bones, making every one ache,

Coils around your heart like a venomous snake.

Injecting its darkness to kill off the light,

Wrong choices are made when you used to make right.

But everyone suffers as you become rotten

And all happy memories conveniently forgotten

Sit now in the garage in boxes stacked high,

Neglected, unwanted but then, by and by,

The house that is home, the one that is new,

Feels suddenly lonely and awfully blue.

You stop and you look,

You espy a book.

The one, the only book on the shelf

Is sitting there, lonesome, all by itself.

Your eye wanders thoughtfully to not one box but three.

Then you look at the bookshelf and finally see.

It’s not all about buildings and auras and aches.

It has nothing to do with metaphorical snakes.

When you take a step back

When you take in what you lack

You see it as plain as the quizzical looks

That what makes a home is a shelf load of books.

 

books

 

 

 

 

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