|photo copyright John Heseltine|
Jo Shapcott: The Great Storm - 1987
We rode it all night. We were not ourselves then.
Through the window everything was horizontal.
In cars and ships and woods, folk died.
Small trees scattered like matchsticks
and a whole shed flew by. The world roared.
A branch broke into the kitchen,
strewed twigs into the banging cupboard,
filled broken crocks with leaves. I heard
a tricycle roll up and down the attic as
the firmament streamed through smashed tiles.
I loved you but I loved the wind more,
wanted to be as horizontal as the tree tops,
to cling to the planet by my last fingernail,
singing into the rush, into the dark.
I didn't know then I would watch
my beloveds peel off the earth
each side of me, flying among tiles, bins,
caravans, car doors and chimney pots,
watch them turn themselves into flotsam
and disappear as wholly as the pier
the next morning, a Friday, mid-
October. Gone, split, vamoosed
like the fifteen million trees.
Carol Ann Duffy invited 60 poets to contribute a poem celebrating one year of the Queen’s sixty on the throne. It’s an amazing collection by some of the UK’s best poets. I chose 1987 because I remember the big storm very well - I was living in a roof-top flat in Bristol and stayed awake all night listening to horrific noises and expecting at any moment to be looking at the sky through the rafters. In the morning I discovered the roof tiles stacked in piles in the gutters and the lead on the dormer windows rolled up neatly as if by experts. I liked Jo Shapcott’s poem because she captures the exhilaration of it, the adrenaline rush of the experience.
The collection can be read on-line at the Poetry Book Society, or on the Guardian’s web site or here at Jubilee Lines dot com.
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