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Sport 43: 2015

Rachel Bush — Long and short

page 52

Rachel Bush

Long and short

Silas Southern, a tall man, preached Methodism.
Once a week he rode a donkey to carry God’s word
to villages near Altrincham.

Today we have three visitors for lunch,
two film makers and a baker called Tom.
Conversation does its best, but sometimes
lies down or scatters, like dry leaves, the few
that blew indoors (and who will sweep them,
who will lift them up?)

For fifteen years the baker has kept
the same sourdough starter. Like it’s his pet
he feeds it every day, except on Saturdays it goes
in the fridge and rests on Sundays with no swelling
no gassy bubbles.

How each short day is exclusive and intact
and how days accumulate, one laid next to
another and one more next to that.

Because Tom’s a baker I tell them over
quiche and salad with his grainy sourdough loaf
about my great grandfather’s funeral cakes,
how Silas Southern baked and sold them.
He wrote short, pious poems, printed them
inside the paper wrapped round each cake.
They were for mourners. These were Victorian
page 53 mourners in heavy black. Ribbons is a word
that comes to mind, also weeds and crepe.

So many things accumulate. They weigh us
off balance. We struggle to stay upright,
we lurch and are precarious. Our feet are flat
and sudden. It was easier when we had
a mum and dad. Easily we could blame them
when we were less than we desired.

I keep a photograph of Silas Southern,
baker of bread and fine confections,
this tall great grandfather whose legs
were too long on a little donkey and whose
leather soles scraped across Cheshire,
Sunday after Sunday after Sunday.