The sepia of the creased photo
hints at breath of ale and sweet tobacco
that clung to pipes lined up in a rack.
It echoes with the tock of a mantel clock
and the faster tick of a watch
tethered to his pocket by a brass chain. His moustache,
waxed and sharp, would prickle your face,
and his sergeant-major’s voice made you sit up straight
for a daily check: neck and hands had to be clean,
shoes shone like army boots, hair brushed like the bearskin
he kept with two brass shell cases, polished every day.
He cracked walnuts and dipped them in salt, the Indian way.
But inside his barrel chest wrestled gremlins of horror and fear,
and the unkept promise of death on the battlefields of the Great War.
Kim M. Russell, 25th May 2019
My poem for Imaginary Garden with Real Toads Weekend Mini Challenge: Portraiture, also linked to Poets United Poetry Pantry
I’m hosting the mini challenge over at the Imaginary Garden this weekend with some examples of Seamus Heaney’s poetry. One of the things I love is the way he paints portraits with words.
Based on three examples of poems by Heaney, I have asked Toads to write a new poem, or revise an old one, which paints a portrait, which can be of someone we know or have known, a relative or a lover, or a stranger, someone interesting or unusual.