This is a story written in scarlet threads caught on a green net fence . . .
The Pilgrim had fewer young ones listening the evening she told this story. It was autumn, and the Chapel-in-the-Sands hosted parents and grandparents, uncles and aunts (both honorary and by blood) missing those gone away to study.
After the welcomes, the tea and the cake, the Pilgrim took a shawl from the back of a pew. With deft fingers and the inner dance of her body, she became one of the left-behind, saying farewell. And this is what she said:
You turn at the top of the wet steps and wave. Your coat swirls red as windowledge geraniums. Unladylike. Bold. Piratical.
Some folk say you’re uppity. Whistling Mozart, raving about Burne-Jones, got no idea. Teacher’s pet – your pen would dance on through break to catch the stories between the lines. You didn’t even hear the bell; had to be shunted out to daydream in the safe corner by the fence and bins, staring beween wires and worlds.
You still got in trouble. Got told off for endless doodles of weeping willows, wrens and becks along the margins of exercise books. Failed exams because you choose to answer the questions that should have been there. You wanted launchpads for your glittering journeys among fantastical monarchies complete with diagrams of ranks and crowns – not the traps the examiners set.
I’ve never seen you normal. No shade of foundation could ever hold your interest, you’d have none of the usual magazines nor TV shows to share. You slipped sideways into books, came back breathless, an explorer with new specimens: names of female Pharaohs, orders of lepidoptera, types of volcanic eruption.
This town can’t hold you, doesn’t want to. Where would they shelve a hand-me-down professor, a nerd falling between classes, a wanderer along furrows seeking for shards? With your mix of dialect and book-learned words said wrong and the eyes of a changeling, what status could be given you?
So now you’re spinning away from that cold and polished house. Going off to seek your fortune. No hooks mar your gums and tether you to coal-blackened canal banks. Satellite of so many clusters, your trajectory runs as wild as your rain-frizzled hair. Skip along the platform, strange borrowed daughter. Leave to find other kinds of folk. But let the gravity of our hearts bring you home.