Thursday, June 12, 2008

James Barrett and the Doll in the Corner

(An interesting project coordinated by Kathy Murray to delve into an imagined relationship between the man and doll above)

Ah begod, Jamesie Barrett, you were handsome back then
With your hat on three hairs and you’re chest like a hen.
How you’d strut through the town with a bounce in your stride
And a smile on your lips and a song at your side!
In a town of brown tweed you were every girl’s dream.
In chattering huddles the glances were flung,
Ling’ring too long or with too bright a gleam,
Like the song of their mothers, imperfectly sung.

And you knew and you grinned,
Held your face to the wind
And I watched like an overawed child.

With the priest or the tinker you’d stop for a chat,
At the simmering housewives you’d doff your felt cap.
Oh you were the rooster, all swagger and charm
And I was the girl that you placed on your arm.
My tongue knotted tightly the day that you paused
And crooked a long finger beneath my prim chin.
And what a commotion the sight of this caused
In Hilda Magilton and Bessie McGlynn.

And you knew and you smiled,
Brushed my cheek like a child
And I froze like a rabbit at night.

I grew buds,
You cracked jokes,
I would light up your smokes.
You’d raise my parasol
And you’d call me your doll.

Jamesie Barrett, how I laughed on the day that we wed
And I danced until morning to stave off the bed.
I was young and afraid and the joy turned to tears
And the smell of your body rekindled old fears.
But you held me so tenderly, close to your chest,
Your pulse locked with mine in a spiritual beat
And the breeze swung around till it blew from the west
And out in the meadow I heard a lamb bleat.

And you knew and you cried
As if speared in the side
And I took you and kissed your wounds clean.

I grew fat,
You worked hard,
I hung clothes in the yard.
You’d raise my parasol
And you’d call me your doll.

Winter cracked
And the harsh light drew thick shadows
On the gable wall.
It wasn’t your fault.
I’ve told you that many times.
Just an old friend well met.
I screamed for you as the room darkened.
You found us cold and still on the kitchen floor
In a swimming pool of blood,
Present and future scythed down like yesterday’s barley.

And after the funeral, your horrified stare
When you came in to find me propped up in the chair.
A haunting? No, love, but you broke down and wept
And later you screamed as you fitfully slept.
In time you approached me and knelt by my side,
Recounted each breath of the day that I died
And begged me to open my mouth to forgive,
Declared you no longer desired to live.

But no prayers could rescind
The foul blows of the wind
That assailed our small cottage with fury.

Jamesie Barrett, forty years have sped by like a train.
I’ve silently sat here observing your pain.
The chisellers shout at the bumbling old fool
Who mumbles aloud as he passes the school.
Your time isn’t long now – enough of amends!
You never forsook your unfortunate wife.
Cradle me softly when darkness descends,
In death in your arms, as I was once in life.

And we’ll stroll
Hand in hand
Down that vast stretch of sand
And you’ll raise my parasol
And you’ll call me your doll.