Sunday, 8 May 2016

The Man in the Ground

Theresa Malone’s very first word was NO
Said with a rage she would frequently show
18 months old she’d scowl from her seat
Slamming her hand down on food she won't eat
Theresa Malone was a furnace of rage
And this is the story of how all of that changed

In school age 6 Theresa caused up roar
When Mr.Cage and Theresa in class went to war
Theresa disliked that he smelt of stale smoke
So when he would talk she’d clutch at her throat
Mr.Cage would then keep her in during break
So Theresa watched her friends playing out by the gate

Mr Cage in class lost his temper again
As Theresa declared his nose looked like a plane
He slammed down his pens and made several kids cry
As Theresa pointed out a jet passing by
Theresa he shouted, you will be quiet as a mouse
Mr Cage, she screamed I’m going to burn down your house

This was the way for the angry young girl
Who saw red fringes lining the edge of her world
Door slams, detonations and temper eruptions
Inside or outside she was a constant disruption
But at home Theresa was silent and scared
Her father was the ogre who ruled coldly there

Theresa’s mother died when Theresa was 7
The police softly said she’d gone up to heaven
They tried to hide the unpleasant truth
Theresa’s mother another case of “domestic abuse”
But Theresa knew as her father was taken away
That she’d lost both her parents in one bitter day

Her father was tried and then sentenced to jail
His serious stern temper turning childishly pale
And Theresa was sent to an aunt out of town
Where it was hoped she would thrive and maybe calm down
Her aunt fed her apples and plenty of cake
But Theresa still shouted and threw food from her plate

For months her aunt tried every tactic she knew
But nothing would work or ever get through
And when Theresa smashed a window with an old china plate
Her aunt felt taking her in may be a mistake
Theresa, my love, I can’t cope with all this
And she dropped to her knees and hoped for a kiss

Theresa could see the pain that she’d created
But the anger in her heart could not be abated
And she stormed from her aunt there on her knees
Out to the garden and the flowers and bees
And she sat at the end over looking the fields
Trying to find the world she’d somehow concealed

She sat hunched with her knees to her chest
When she first saw the man lying at rest
He was just a mound of dirt and leaves and grass
But seeing him there made her gasp and then laugh
For though he was just dirt, grass and leaves
She could see his head and his arms and his knees

A man lying there with his arms behind his head
A man lying peaceful as though comfy in bed
The man in the ground Theresa saw laying there
The man in the ground with flowers for hair
He was just soil nothing more, just mound on the lawn
But Theresa felt certain a friendship had born

I’m angry she hissed and then started to cry
I’m angry so often and I just don’t know why
She wept by the man and the man lay un-moving
But him lying and listening was simple and soothing
So Theresa she wept and spoke of her mum and her dad
And tranquillity swift flowed and submerged all the bad

She returned inside and found her aunt in her bed
Theresa opened the door and stood and soft said
I’m sorry Aunt Josie, I’ll be better I hope
And Aunt Josie held her so perfectly tight, warm and  close
They went to the kitchen and made pastry together
And Aunt Josie had hopes that things may get better

From then Theresa would go to the garden each day
She’d fret and she’d speak her bad thoughts away
She’d let them all spill to the man in the ground
Who took them to the fires that lay deep and down
She’d go inside calmer, heart light and temper cool
And Josie would cook while they talked about school

A storm tore the night when Theresa was 9
It ripped branches from trees and laundry from lines
It shattered windows in town and broke the church spire
And it tore down reception from telegraph wires
Aunt Josie came to Theresa’s as the sky turned deep red
But found that Theresa was not in her bed

She tore through the house calling her name
Afraid of burglars, kidnappers and menace unnamed
She saw the back door was open to the night
And snatched at a torch to throw a weak light
She raced down the path towards the fields and the farm
Praying her niece was please safe from harm

She found Theresa sat with an umbrella held tight
Singing to the garden in the dark of the night
Josie stood motionless and Theresa stroked the grass
As the lightning shock crackled and thunder crashed past
I’ll keep you dry Theresa said to the ground
And laughed as the lightning flashed all around

What were you doing? Josie asked her within
As the paper quick crackled so the flames could begin
The man in the ground was washing away
Theresa replied, and that’s all she would say
So Josie made cocoa and they sat there together
The flames flickering high slow calming the weather

Theresa held her anger within now as she grew
The man in the ground the only one who now knew
She would hold her fists as she was taunted in class
About her mother and father and violence of the past
She would come home with tears and rush to the yard
Where she knew she could say all that was hard

Christmas Day, birthday or Halloween night
Theresa told the man everything that wasn’t right
Josie would watch and accept as a fact
That Theresa felt better after she’d been and done that
Theresa even wrote a letter when she was turning 13
To Mr Cage apologising for being so childishly mean

When Theresa was 16 Josie had news
That hurt like a bee sting on top of a bruise
Her father was being released in a weeks time
The courts deciding he’d been punished fow for his crime
He wanted to see her but it was entirley her choice
Did she want to see him or listen to his voice?

Theresa looked at her Aunt and blinked her tears back
As the world spun in backward and the sky turned to black
I need to speak to my friend was Theresa’s reply
And she went to the garden and sat under the sky
She told the man in the ground her father was coming
Then sat rocking quietly as the bees started humming

Theresa dug memories from deep in her mind
That there were few remaining she was saddened to find
Her mother crying and screaming No More
As her father ripped his rage and kicked at the floor
Her mother un-moving as he smashed at the walls
And Theresa age 6 and her emergency call

Now 10 years later he walked from his cell
Started walking slow towards her with feelings to tell
He wanted his daughter, he wanted to meet
Wanted to build a bridge to her heart under his feet
The man in the ground just lay under the sun
And Theresa told her aunt that her father could come

And then there he was with his eyes to the path
At her front door and Theresa wanted to laugh
Here was the man who’d watched her life begin
Asking and crying for her to let him come in
I’m so sorry he said and wrung hard at his hands
Please can I try to make you understand?

Theresa stood alone but felt something shift
Heard soil break apart and grass and dirt lift
Behind her she knew the man was stood there
One hand on her shoulder to show that he cared
The man in the ground had her back now she knew
So she said to her father what she felt was true

Dad, she said and he started to weep
As for the first time years he heard her voice speak
I forgive you she said and gave him one kiss
But that’s all I have, that’s all that there is
She shut the door and saw him through the glass
As he slow retreated back into her past

The man in the ground was laying at peace
But she saw dirt on the carpet down by her feet
The man in the ground lay under the sky
With daisies growing close to his left eye
Theresa, the girl, who was no longer a child
Saw wind move the grass so it appeared that he smiled

Theresa went to study and Aunt Josie cried
As her heart filled with hope and then filled with pride
Theresa studied hard and came home each term
And laughed and related all that she’d learnt
Then she’d go to the garden and give to the man
Small samples of soil she’d saved in a can

Dirt from her university and sand from the shore
Dirt from a pub that she liked and then more
Spoonfuls of soil from places she’d been
She scattered on the man and the grass wet and green
And the man lay at rest with his arms behind his head
Just like a man lazing on Sunday in bed

Theresa finished university and found her feet keen
To go seeking vistas and sights yet unseen
She explained to Aunt Josie that it was time to travel
To see what was out there and the future unravel
She flew to Morocco and Vietnam and Laos
Sending back postcards of where she was now

She travelled through Europe and Russia as well
Mailing back promises of stories to tell
She lived there in London and Hamburg and Spain
And criss-crossed the continent cheaply by train
She came back before Christmas in her 23rd year
And Aunt Josie opened the door with excitement and cheer

They talked and they sipped as Theresa told tales
Of eating bugs, horse meat, intestines and snails
She showed Josie a tattoo she’d gotten in Mumbai
The date her mum was born and the date that she’d died
And then she told Aunt Josie the thing she had to say
Aunt Josie, I don’t know if you know this….I’m gay

Aunt Josie smiled and said that she knew
But I didn’t want to say anything, it was all up to you
Josie sat happy and so very proud of this girl
Who’d climbed such a mountain to be here in this world
Theresa the girl with the wild furious rages
Was now a young woman writing her pages

Theresa then sat with the man in the ground
Told him of her journeys to the humming bee sound
She pulled a tobacco tin from out of her clothes
Opened it and inhaled happily through her nose
This is the world, I’ve bought it to you
A spoonful of soil from every country she’d been through

Mud from Siem Reap near Ankor Watt
Soil from Italy where she’d briefly stopped
A scoop of America and a dash of southern Spain
A pinch of Germany near where she caught a train
A little bit of London and a wee dash of Wales
And a wet piece of Scotland dug up in a gale

Sand from the Red Centre near Uluru
All safely transported and bought back for you
A little of Russia and a touch of Nepal
She kissed each offering and watched the dirt fall
And this, she told him is from the seas I have seen
The oceans and rivers of the places I’ve been

The man in the ground lay with arms behind his head
As any man who was lazing on Sunday in bed
The dirt scattered softly and water trickled slow
Little pieces of the places that he could not go
Then Theresa lay with him and she let herself doze
And woke with a flower on top of her clothes

Aunt Josie was helping at a sausage sizzle one day
When the end of her life swift had its way
A stroke seized her mind and sent her to sleep
And she woke uncertain and unable to speak
Theresa rushed to her bed and held her good hand
Telling Josie she loved her hoping she’d understand

Aunt Josie smiled weakly and blinked one tired eye
Amazed that time had so swift passed her by
Theresa hugged her and asked her please just to stay
And in the warmth of that moment Josie passed away
Theresa wept then in that bright hospital room
Feeling her time with Aunt Josie had gone far to soon

One week later with her aunts’ final remains
Theresa sat in the garden with the man once again
This is my Aunty; she’s left the house to me,
This is where my heart is and where I will be
And she scattered the ashes right next to the man
Hoping he would keep Josie safe and warm in his hands

Theresa found love in buying vintage clothes
As she sneezed from the dust that tickled her nose
A tissue was handed from a woman named Jane
Who fell onto her heart like the softest of rain
Theresa and Jane soon shared life together
And though they couldn’t marry they promised forever

They laughed, worked, adopted and grew
Went on marches for injustice and equality too
They sat sipping wine on calm Sunday nights
While the kids they’d given homes lay lit by nightlights
Theresa lived a life shared with tears and with laughs
And visits down the garden to the man in the grass

Jane and Theresa, Theresa and Jane
Became grandparents three times and then once again
The fourth was a frowning girl named Collette
Who was bitterly angry and savagely direct
Her first word was No and the next Go Away
Theresa told the man laughing one cool winters day

She was older now with her hair wispy thin
But she had the same sparkle and the same happy grin
She laughed with the man at Collette’s latest wrath
Throwing mud at the clothes that had all just been washed
She did it because she was wearing odd socks
Pelted the sheets with mud and dirty old rocks

And as she laughed with the man Theresa felt strange
Like something in her chest had fast rearranged
Oh she said as her breathing grew still
And she sat back in her chair before she could spill
She looked back at the house where Jane gently waved
Where grandchildren were laughing at the games that they played

Am I dying? she asked of the man in the ground
But her words were impossible to bring into a sound
Her eyesight grew darker as the bees hummed close by
And Jane saw Theresa sleep instead of seeing her die
It was half hour later when Jane bought her a wine
That she found our Theresa had run out of time

But in that hour something had quietly stirred
And something impossible impossibly occurred
Theresa was sat in her chair calm at peace
Looking rested and loved not cold and deceased
In reds, blues and yellows laid with such care
Hundreds of flowers had been woven into her hair

Jane sought permission and it was allowed
To inter Theresa right there in the ground
Beside the man only Theresa could see
Under the warmth of the sun and the hum of the bee
Jane laid her to rest with joy at their life
My beloved, my best friend, my lover and wife

Then a band played old love songs and cakes were devoured
The sun sparkled through crystals and rainbows were flowered
Jane wept long and often but she laughed much as well
And when anyone asked she had stories to tell
Her children and grand children held her love dear
That even now widowed Jane was glad to be here

And a week later Collette was visiting filled with ire
Her parents tugging their hair at the girl there on fire
Collette knocked over the table and shouted out NO
And stormed outside where her Grandmother would go
Collette sat near where Gran T had been lain
And shouted in frustration and fury again

Collette was 5 and possessed of such aggression
That instead of soft toys rage was her possession
But there in the garden Collette found she could see
Her grandmother, Aunt Josie - and he
A man lying resting with his arms under his head
Just like a man lazing on Sunday in bed

Her grandmother Theresa placed one hand to her lips
Then winked at Collette and blew her a kiss
The man smiled broadly and Collette felt safe from harm
And knew that speaking would help her feel calm
So she stumbled and uttered her words in a rush
As Theresa nodded and then said to her Hush

Any time you are raging or torn up inside
Come visit us here with nothing to hide
Send your fury down into the lava below
Let it warm up the world and help the trees grow
We are here my love, any time you need speak
At the end of the garden, just come here and seek

And at the end of the garden outside of the home
Where Jane still lives warmly, well loved but alone
Theresa, Aunt Josie and the Man in the Ground
Hear the world ageing and every soft sound
Collette comes to them often and her rage slips away
And they lay there together at peace at the ebb of the day