Hoping to see The Sunset Comet one last time
I slipped and slithered up the treacherous
Steps that led up to the Castle;
Equipment-packed rucksack fat and heavy
On my back, rain spattering my face
I stepped fearfully onto, and then climbed
The slimed, mud-slopped track that leads past
Then o’er its long-dry moat, seeking shelter
In Kendal’s oldest ruins whilst waiting for dusk
To fall, hoping against hope the comet
Would appear once more.
Rain slapping me like an angry lover’s hand
Again and again forced me back
Into the shattered towers’ shadows and,
Feet slipping on the once-medieval mud,
Tripping over unseen stones; scrambling for cover
As the crow-black sky above
Howled in a demented, elemental rage
I called myself a fool.
How could I hope to see any celestial beauty
On such a nightmare of a night?
With green-black grass swaying in waves
All around me, rippling like a beast’s wind-whipped pelt?
Surrounding me like prison bars: the once-proud
Castle’s ruined black towers.
Hollowed out now by Ages of wind and snow,
Reduced from stout sentinels of stone to rotten teeth
Gnawing vainly at the meaty sky,
Embedded in their sodden, grassy gums.
On all sides shrieking, skeletal trees framed the swollen
Heavens, their bare branches black wires scratching
At the tender bellies of the clouds,
Drawing lines of sunset-coloured blood –
Then suddenly – a rip appeared, a gaping
Gash between two slabs of grey
And through the wound I saw the dusky sky!
Emerging from my stone cocoon I soon
Was searching for mcnaught;
Braced against the fort’s oldest,
Longest wall to stop me being toppled by the storm.
Grime- and Time- and lichen-stained, the cold wet stone
Was hard against my back as my jacket
Flapped around me, cracking and snapping
Like a doomed ship’s tattered sail in a gale,
And even as an unseen hand wrenched apart
The clouds covering the western sky my face
Stang with the pain of countless needles
Of icy rain scything from the north.
Then there She was – The Comet,
A spark of Snow Queen white, a
Silver scratch on a dusk-dimmed sky,
Diamond-bright splinter of light
Crowning her fair head.
Playing hide and seek with me through the clouds,
Slipping and skipping behind them again and again
I swear I heard her laughing in the stinging winter rain,
Playing in the golden Sun’s glare as
She plunged towards its furnace-furious heart.
Standing there, staring down at the molten amber droplets
Of streetlights far below, twinkling like stars as cars
And buses fluttered through the rain-washed streets,
I wondered how those at their wheels could be
So oblivious to the drama being played
Out on their sunset’s temporary stage.
“Look up!” I shouted in my mind, “tear your eyes
Away from the glaring dashboard lights
And see something amazing…
…before she’s – “
Only banks of charcoal-coloured cloud remained,
Stained sepia in the Auld Grey Town’s wet twilight
And as the bitter rain spat in my face again,
Carried on a wind as brutal as a wounded bear I fled,
Whispering a painful, last goodbye to my comet
Before surrendering her to the southern sky…
© Stuart Atkinson 2007