Sunday, 29 November 2009

The Wart Went

I got my first ever wart on the last day of Lent:
My nana Dot rubbed a chunk of raw-meat on it,
Then told me to go and bury it.
After about a week the wart went.

Rector Seal, he always parked his bike on top my nana’s,
In the graveyard - she was inside doing the church flowers.
I can see them now, locked like a couple of locked spanners,
Up against a gravestone.

Nana Dot said, he needs all the help he can get, pray for him,
Reverend Seal’s got trouble with his waterworks.
It turned-out to be a kidney stone.
But the miracle of the wart and buried meat
Led me to operate on Seal’s seat.

Splatter-proof in my cycle cape
I studied the anatomy of his bike:
Imagined the break cables and water bottle
Circulating Seal blood - full throttle.

There was even something scrotum-like
About his old leather saddlebag.

And I knew I’d made the right decision
As soon as I made the first incision;
Through the epidermis of Seal’s saddle,
To the blubber-like foam in the middle.

I cut round the colon of springs
To the sound of the choir practicing hymns,
Yet when I hit skeletal frame,
I settled on burying a chunk of the fat-like foam.

Before patching up the scars
With a strip of tape from the handlebars.

Nana Dot died years ago.
But Seal’s still on his bike as far as I know.

Nana Dot cradling, not glue-sniffing (traced), 1987

Reverend Seal was the vicar of St Mary’s Church. My grandmother, Dorothy (nana Dot) adored him; she was a tireless worker for the church – an “Excellent Woman” - Barbra Pymesque; tidying the graves; arranging the flowers; organizing jumble sales; ringing the bells; mending prayer mats; teaching Sunday School; attending funerals (often, the burials of complete and utter strangers – she lived for funerals).

Both sides of the same page of the Parish Magazine, announcing my baptism, 1964

I don’t know whether or not Dot noticed that an advertisement for ‘Complete Funeral Undertakers – Day and Night’ happened to be printed on the reverse-side of the page announcing my baptism in the Parish Magazine. The irony would have been lost on her though; given a preference, she’d have attended a funeral over a baptism any day.

The hand of my father (son of Dot), a Sunday-painter, sketched the outline and I added the colour, in this Sunday-school depiction of “The Cradling of Baby Jesus”.

Looking at it now, I appear to have got my bible stories reversed. My image reads more like the post-crucifixion gathering at Christ’s tomb than the ‘Birth of the Infant Child’: Mark 16:1-4 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”
My chalk ‘Cradling’ is a direct copy (combination) of two sleeping bag advertisements from Climber & Rambler magazine (home of rock walls and boulders, the home too of Peter Storm). It’s as if I were painting the contradiction of my baptism/funeral collision from the pages of the Parish Magazine: plagiarism by anticipation?

The loner in the sleeping bag was based on Reverend Seal.

There were three women involved: Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome; they planned to bring spices to apply to the body. Apparently the women did not know that the tomb had been sealed and placed under guard. The sealing involved a cord that passed around the stone, and that was attached to the rock wall with sealing wax that had been impressed with an official Roman seal.

Shady Cradle Roll Certificate

It’s not much of a leap: from cagoules to sleeping bags, via a cycle cape (doubling as a surgeon’s gown). Especially when bridged by a vicar called Seal. But isn’t the concept of hermetically sealed metaphors a contradiction? Vicars, like the rest of us, when sealed in hooded-sleeping bags, resemble seals. Perhaps now you can see why I’m so obsessed about stalking Peter Storm in Peter Storm in a storm (see “Storm-Proof”, 26/11/09). Larkin was right: you can't escape your wrong beginnings. But they are great levelers, sleeping bags: they reduce us all to the same sealed, seal state; as well as making us vulnerable to the same fate: very difficult to defend yourself against a golf club attack when you’re in a sleeping bag.

Sunny Cradle Roll Certificate

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