THE BALLAD OF EDMUND TUPPENCE
CANTO THE SECOND (PART TWO)
CANTO THE FIRST PART ONE here if you missed it
CANTO THE FIRST PART TWO here if you missed it
CANTO THE SECOND PART ONE here if you missed it
1st April, 2020
Another day has passed, and Sally fades.
She knows that sleep must claim her for its own.
She turns the light out, closes all the shades,
And takes her clothes off, no longer alone.
As Edmund’s breathing softly serenades
She hears something melodious in the tone.
She slips beneath the sheets and holds him tight,
Aware of wrong but feeling very right.
In darkness now we poets must perform
Our duty to the muses and the soul
Of poetry. Our theme begins to warm
As silence reigns. We scarcely need cajole
The words to find their order and to form
A bracelet charm’d to settle any toll
That love exacts, a bill that love may send.
(We used ‘love’ twice – but never at the end!)
‘Judge not, lest ye be judged’. Yes, yes. We know.
But judgement need not always be as stern
As Biblical pronouncements, nor as though
We seek to be judicial. Yet we learn
Each situation has its yes or no
And sometimes both, which case will make us turn
Attention to the yea and nay together.
Will it blow fair, or usher in foul weather?
When forces can’t be stopped or objects moved
We have to re-think physics. One or other
Must lose its erstwhile signature, that’s proved.
But which? Unless they blend with one another,
A moving lover, an unmoving loved.
An alchemical sister with her brother.
A new phenomenon! And so, what then?
(I know. We cheated with line five again).
What can I know? said old Immanuel Kant.
They set their clocks in Königsberg by him
So regular his daily walk. We shan’t
Pretend our chances don’t look pretty grim
Of knowing what our lovers can and can’t
Achieve. We can’t quite quote Kant verbatim.
But though a fairly knowledgeable bloke,
We’re certain he knew nothing about coke.
You see, young Sally is an ingénue.
A rube, a raw prawn, wet behind the ears.
A fly in spider territory, true,
She is an urban lass without the fears
The town-mouse has, but these are pastures new.
Her judgement’s green, the shell’s about her ears.
Yet would she fly, she would risk all for love.
For love! We say. And say again, for love!
Hie thee. You find us here, a little worn.
In truth we’re frit, we’ve scared ourself with verse.
If any veil there were, ‘tis truly torn,
And truth revealed. It couldn’t be much worse.
To boost our sum of woes here is the dawn,
It strokes the lashes of our naked nurse.
And when she strokes his tousled hair it seems
To Sally, though she wakes, that yet she dreams.
Whatever dreams she has dreamed they have told
That imminence of action is at hand.
She’s out of bed and pen in hand she holds,
Here is a girl who likes her morning planned.
She writes and crosses out, a list unfolds,
And lists are something Sally understands.
A new life with a new man needs a start,
She’ll give rein to her head and shelve her heart.
And as she scribes and prioritises
The mirror on her wall watches her there.
That silver surface which so oft advises
Her choice of dress, the styling of her hair.
She sees it not, nor sees as Edmund rises,
Now stands behind her, smells her essence rare.
She spins at last and has nowhere to go.
But Edmund Tuppence smiles and says, ‘Hello’.
She freezes and he stands as still as stone.
The mirror has them both, a painted frieze.
A speculum that speculates alone,
The mirror seems to hold the future’s keys.
As Sally rises slowly to intone
A ‘hello’ to put Edmund at his ease,
She sees there is no threat meant here at all.
The poor boy needs to answer nature’s call!
She takes his hand in hers and leads him on,
Not to a sylvan glade but more mundane
A place. She shuts the door and thereupon
Retires. I think there’s no need to explain.
So Sally walks away, auboustrephon.
To glance, embarrassed, at her list again.
We struggled once again in five for verse.
The word means ‘walking backwards’. What a curse!
Now Edmund’s back. He says ‘hello’ again
And Sally dreads she has an empty shell
As lover. But she greets him all the same.
To see him smile is more than she can tell.
Then, he expands his theme; ‘What is your name?’
And Sally speaks, as tears she tries to quell.
It doesn’t take her long to work it out.
Ed’s tabula is rasa, there’s no doubt.
She leads him, smiling, to a chair. He sits.
‘Where do you live?’, she asks. Ed smiles once more.
‘Well, I live here’, he says. ‘With you’. Now it’s
Impossible for Sally Q to shore
Up tears. He seems to take on facts as bits
Of information newly formed as law.
He may be Sally’s angelic miracle,
But Edmund’s sense is totally empirical.
Perhaps ‘empirical’ is not the word.
It smacks too much of dead philosophy.
And ‘sainted’ is not something that is heard
These days, and brings us to theosophy.
Though ‘holy fool’ is something that’s occurred
To us. We’re truly at a loss. If he
Be taught at all young Sally Quicklake must
Enlist the help of friends that she can trust.
She has a teacher friend who’d understand
The turn that Sally’s life’s been wont to take.
A visit for that afternoon is planned
Until then Sal has other plans to make.
For Edmund has no wardrobe, none to hand,
How Sally longs to shop, but can’t forsake
Her changeling child. To visit an outfitter
She’ll have to find herself a babysitter.
Who can she trust? There is but one sound man.
She is aware he’s on a different road,
But something whispers to her that she can
Entrust the boy-child to a man who’s showed
That Edmund is a loved one, of a clan,
A family, adherents to a code.
In for a penny? She’s in for a pound.
(We’ve added for inflation. All seems sound.)
She calls up Royal, they arrange a time.
He has, he says, to attend to some chores,
Undoubtedly connected with some crime
Or other. Insubstantial thing like laws
Were, as the Yankees say, nickel and dime
To men of Mullins’ ilk. Now, Sally, pause.
You have to understand, my girl, alack.
You’ve crossed a bright line; there’s no coming back.
Now Sally has some other fish to fry.
Why always fish? Does anybody know?
But here it’s apt, she’s realised by and by
That Edmund has been there a day, and so
He must be fed and watered and – Oh my!
And bathed as well. She can’t help feel a glow
Of warm anticipation at the thought
Of doing what she really didn’t ought.
Still Edmund sits, a princeling on a throne,
Not bored, distracted, not in any mood.
Just clear-eyed, slightly smiling, made of stone
Yet warm and breathing. Let it be construed
He’s on the mend, at least in flesh and bone.
As Sally makes some light and wholesome food,
She wonders what’s inside that pretty head.
The body lives; might not the mind be dead?
Now Edmund’s sat at table, knife and fork
And spoon laid out as Sally serves the meal.
A hearty omelette filled with grated pork.
Ice-cream to follow. Why now does she feel
She feeds a child? Parental urges talk
Of her unborn. But this child is for real.
Then Edmund speaks, his voice a little hoarse.
‘D’you think that I might have tomato sauce?’
That’s it. The dam breaks. Sally throws her arms
Around his neck, all tears and sobs and kisses.
She feels life’s bracelet now replete with charms,
As though she were completed now, and this is
Her sweet reward for all those false alarms
Each time that Cupid shoots his bow and misses.
And Edmund’s puzzled look’s in comic vein.
He thinks that he might ask for sauce again.
So there is something in the Tuppence mind.
And something stirs the deeps behind the face.
And what was it St. Augustine opined?
The memory’s a place as yet no place.
And what if Edmund’s past life come untwined?
We know his alter ego’s a disgrace.
Oh, Sally. Though you are a force for good,
Do not get lost in the enchanted wood.
But Sally is encouraged now to speak.
Does Edmund like ice-cream? Oh yes, he beams.
What day comes after Tuesday in the week?
That’s Wednesday, Ed replies, and now he seems
As priceless to our girl as pearls antique,
As diadems lain plundered from her dreams.
And as a tear of joy escapes her eye,
So Edmund tilts his head and says, ‘don’t cry’.
And we have overstayed our welcome. Now
We’ll take our leave of love and lovers both.
We’ve seen strange things, that nature will allow
A metamorphosis that may be loath
To ever right itself. It asks us how
The future’s web will spin itself, in troth.
For Royal Mullins’ tread is one the stair.
And, just one step behind him, fate is there.
He enters. He is carrying a case.
He kisses Sally, tousles Edmund’s hair.
He still looks grave, something about his face
Tells Sally to be cheery but beware.
A place for everything, for each a place.
He sets his baggage, sombre, on a chair.
What cargo dread is in RM’s portmanteau?
You’ll find the answer in the coming canto...
Mark Gullick is a philosophy PhD from London, England, who went on holiday to Costa Rica four years ago and forgot to go home. He now works there as a musician. He blogs at https://postcardsfromtraumaville.blogspot.com/