It was a chance remark overheard on a train, someone recalling a book given to them by their mother, not one I recognised.
Mine were The Hound of Heaven and the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. The first has a blue cover and the other a soft leather cover, smooth to the touch. I can feel it now. But wait – they have long since disappeared, shoved into battered cases and pushed under the bed. Or stowed in black plastic sacks and carried from one Earls Court bedsit to another and then lost on the momentous journey that led to married life.
Lost but not gone for they were treasured gifts from my mother to my teenage self in the days before teenagers were invented, categorised as YA, isolated in bookshops a month and cut off from the chequerboard of poetry.
And so, some years, I give myself a treat by swearing faithfully to read a book of poetry a month.
Last time I did this, about ten years ago, I kept my New Year’s Resolution for three or four months and then forgot….
I may do better this year though then again I may not.
I can’t recall how I heard about Portadown poet Sam Gardiner. Perhaps it was his marvellous witty poem Protestant Windows for it was this one that made me buy the book – published by Lagan Press in 2000.
Here’s the poem:
They come at sunset peddling daylight, two
Salesmen wearing glasses through which they view
His shabby sliding sashes with disdain.
“Wood?” they suppose and feign
Dismay. “Yes, comes from trees.”
And he raises the drawbridge ten degrees,
a hurdle to reservists
but child’s play to frontline evangelists
with news of paradise
in earth ( at this address to be precise)
in whitest white PVC.
“Think of all
the blessings. And if economical
heavenly comfort isn’t what you need,
think of our Earth,” they plead
and their plastic-rimmed, double-glazed eyes glow
with love for generations of window
salesmen as yet unborn.“If I were you,
I’d save my CO2
For atheists and papists. I doubt
They even know about King Billy.” “Who?” “William lll to you,
Brought sliding sashes to
Britain. Fetched in pure air and sanity.
Without him we’d still be in the dark.
“Sorry, we must go. It’s late,” they say
And beat a retreat to the gate,
And pause. Quick as a flash
He raises an effortlessly sliding sash
For a parting shot. “Plastic heretics!”
He shouts. The window sticks.
He lugs, a sash cord snaps. The window drops
On his head, where it stops.
Latimer and Ridley know how he feels
As bloodied, martyred for his faith, he reels
Where planets, the latest novelty,
Are looking less and less
Like being a success.
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