WHAT WAS ON MY ‘TO DO’ LIST
It should have been a grand debut
I feel it in my heart
Words are sometimes a comfort
It is not just the air hurts us
To hold oneself back
Be the first to retract one’s words
Lines intersecting lines
You worry too much
So events are arranged
One breath following another breath
Another tired old door
Culmination of a sequence
We have been hanging around oblivious to everything but ourselves
Disharmony may turn to harmony but the change may prove to be
The estate is home to numerous families not always in the best accord
Nobody ever liked those tree-houses but they were cheap
Now they are being dismantled and taken away
A cocoon is alright as temporary accommodation but you don’t want to
stay there forever
Hanging from a twig or hidden in a rolled leaf or buried in soil
When it’s time to assume adulthood it will be time also to understand
what adulthood entails
It is impossible to understand what adulthood entails
A butterfly alights on a pie and try as I might a sigh escapes
It was impossible to prevent in the event of this slight tremor tantamount to
an assertion of beauty’s fine persistence
Until this moment I had been hanging around oblivious to everything but myself
PRECES: CONTEMPLATING MRS. BAXTER
Versicle: It is not we who choose to awaken ourselves.
Response: Mrs. Baxter chooses to awaken us.
Versicle: How are we to know the will of Mrs. Baxter?
Response: She leaves notes on the fridge door. That’s one way.
Versicle: This is a country whose centre is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.
Response: We do not find Mrs. Baxter by travelling but by standing still.
Versicle: In Mrs. Baxter you find that perfect humility and perfect integrity coincide, and Hell is where
there is no Mrs. Baxter.
Response: You can say that again!
Versicle: Some pleasures may not be renounced.
Response: A shopping trolley gives glory to Mrs. Baxter by being a shopping trolley.
Versicle: Let our tongues taste no bread that does not strengthen us to praise Mrs. Baxter.
Response: Let our tongues get at her cakes too!
Versicle: Mrs. Baxter demands close attention to reality at every moment as she reveals
herself in the mystery of each new situation.
Response: Sometimes she’ll get a last-minute appointment at the clinic if there’s been
Versicle: You may think you can live without Mrs. Baxter but you can’t.
Response: There can be no contemplation of domestic peace where there is no Mrs. Baxter.
Versicle: Those who try to escape from an attachment to their illusory self by treating the good things of
Mrs.Baxter as evil are only confirming themselves in a terrible illusion.
Response: For sure! Have they never tasted her dumplings?
Versicle: No man who simply eats and drinks whenever he feels like eating and drinking, who smokes
whenever he feels the urge to light a cigarette, who gratifies his curiosity and sensuality whenever
they are stimulated, can consider himself as not needing Mrs. Baxter.
Response: When you and I become what we are really meant to be we will discover not only that we love one
another perfectly, but that we are both living our life in the image of Mrs. Baxter.
Versicle: Keep your eyes clean and your ears quiet and your mind serene.
Response: Breathe the air Mrs. Baxter breathes.
Versicle: To be unknown of Mrs. Baxter is altogether too much privacy.
Response: We’re not sure what this means, but we agree anyway!
Versicle: It is good to wait in silence for the home-baked tarts Mrs. Baxter brings.
Response: As soon as you have tasted one you will want another.
Versicle: Every one of us is shadowed by Mrs. Baxter.
Response: She is the woman you want her to be but who probably cannot exist.
Versicle: Some alleged men, and a few so-called women, think Mrs. Baxter is a creation intended to
exorcise feelings of guilt about poor housekeeping.
Response: Every one of us has an idea of Mrs. Baxter that is limited and incomplete.
Versicle: Flight from the world is nothing else but flight from Mrs. Baxter.
Response: In order to find Mrs. Baxter one must go out of oneself.
Versicle: As a magnifying glass concentrates the rays of the Sun into a little burning knot of heat that can
set fire to a dry leaf, so Mrs. Baxter gets the housework done.
Response: Mrs. Baxter will be here at 10, as usual.
PLEASE VIEW WEB VERSION TO SEE THIS POEM AS IT SHOULD BE READ
Copyright © Martin Stannard 2018
Martin Stannard’s poetry and criticism have been widely published for almost 40 years. His most recent collection is Poems for the Young at Heart (Leafe Press 2016). He was the editor of the magazine joe soap’s canoe from 1978-1993, all the issues of which (along with other things) are archived at martinstannard.com. Since 2005 he has been teaching at a university in China, except for 2007/8, when he was the Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow at Nottingham Trent University; in February 2018 he is returning to the UK permanently.