Heart And Hand
They were suddenly all around me.
by Tony Jolley
Every sense told me they were there.
Then they gathered me to them
As if the eye of History
Had blinked, stayed open
And sucked me in through its black pupil
To free-fall down the long lens of time
And see, simultaneously, recorded upon its retina,
Every soul who had ever set his heart and hand
To some purpose within narrow compass of me:
The master carpenter who cut and crafted the beams
When power tools were but unimaginable pie in a very future sky;
The mason who set the cottage cornerstone firm and fast
With nothing more than bare hands and a keen eye;
The wheelwright whose work once made the world go round
Amazed to see it now static,
Adorning drive gates in some quaint, faint echo of local tradition,
And giving way, every day to its rubber-shod, horseless carriage successors;
The lads who laboured long to dig the drains and tarmac the tracks,
Seeking respite from the heat in the cool, tripping waters and shades of La Natte;
The old boy who jury-rigged his fence, pro-tem, with a spider’s web of wire
But never quite got around to doing the job properly;
The couple who built a summerhouse, one spring, for the autumn of their life,
Glad they never lived to see it forlorn and failing in its own last winter years.
I could even feel the carts rolling, rumbling, swaying and grumbling their way
Over the river-rounded pebbles under my feet,
Carrying the harvest and a whole host of families’ hopes
For a fair price from the maize market merchants
Who would sell it on up and down the Rhine for a far fairer profit.
Why there? Why then? Why me? ….
I don’t know;
Perhaps those whose lives were played out upon another shore
Are closer to the surface of Time’s ocean than we suspect
Its tide sweeps them across our beaches:
Grains of sand that slip through our hand,
But in that moment they glint and gleam
A whole lifetime,
An entire eternity.
At least they did, today, for me.