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

MARK GULLICK 

April 1st, 2020

XXVI

 

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.

 

 

XXVII

 

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!)

 

 

XXVIII

 

‘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?

 

 

XXIX

 

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).

 

 

XXX

 

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.

 

 

XXXI

 

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!

 

 

XXXII

 

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.

 

 

XXXIII

 

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.

 

 

XXXIV

 

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’.

 

 

XXXV

 

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!

 

 

XXXVI

 

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!

 

 

XXXVII

 

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.

 

 

XXXVIII

 

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.

 

 

XXXIX

 

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.

 

 

XL

 

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.

 

 

XLI

 

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.)

 

 

XLII

 

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.

 

 

XLIII

 

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.

 

 

XLIV

 

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?

 

 

XLV

 

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?’

 

 

XLVI

 

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.

 

 

XLVII

 

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.

 

 

XLVIII

 

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’.

 

 

XLIX

 

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.

 

 

L

 

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/

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