Sunday, April 12, 2009

Poetry Train Monday - 96 - Not After That Look

Happy Easter to all who celebrate this springtime holiday.

Continuing with my found poetry series, here's a poem I've taken from my very first attempt at writing a novel. It's my only completed manuscript to date, and it needs a lot of reworking. But as with many writers, since this is the first novel-length character to inhabit my thoughts and my heart, this character will always be the most special to me.

Guthrie is a Highland Scot in the early 1820's, working on a lowland estate as the gamekeeper. The lady he serves is a newly-widowed countess, whom he recently helped return to the castle when he discovered her out on the grounds in only her sodden nightdress after a storm.

A terrible miscalculation has convinced Guthrie he must stop poaching from the estate, as he's been doing to save money for a new life in the Canadas. Guthrie informs his best friend and poaching partner that he won't be taking part in it anymore.

Click HERE for a previous poem about Guthrie.

I've based him on English actor Sean Bean. Lady Moncrieffe is based on Canadian actress Neve Campbell.

You can Ride the Poetry Train by clicking HERE.

Not After That Look

Guthrie left Lundy’s room
Above the storehouse
Headed back over fields
To his own rough cottage

No one about at this late hour

Just as well be noon
All the sleep he was likely to get
Worked up as he was
Paused in the night air

Head back, look at the stars

What he needed was a smoke
Boulder ahead a little ways
Sit himself down, light up his pipe
Collect himself

Smoke rising gracefully into the night

Nice to sit here
Only man awake in all of Scotland
Just God and Guthrie Carmichael
Sitting together and having a smoke

Thoughts like bait in a swollen stream

Sooner or later, these thoughts
Would arrange themselves
An actual plea
For forgiveness

Movement in the distance

Turned slightly
Peered into the gloom
Unholy shiver pure fright
Ran through him head to foot

Liquid movement, gliding paleness

Took pipe from mouth
Slid off the rock
Quiet as the ghostie there
A spirit loose in these parts?

Could well be a brand new ghost

He might be scared witless
If he was the first to see it
Wouldn’t that be something?
Crept along, gained steadily

Could make out a dress, a white dress

He raced ahead
More noise with increased speed
Skin along his neck crawling
Dare not steal a look behind him

Might lose footing in the dark

It would be upon him
In all its ghastly menace
Leaped down a small rise
Close to turf, eyes level to ground

Perhaps he would give this ghostie its name

Figure’s approach inexorable
Guthrie’s winded breathing quieted
Its face
He had to be imagining

It couldn’t be

The ghost was his mistress
Lady Moncrieffe
Had the lady died in the night?
Remorse for the injury he gave her

Flared hotly in his chest

She had mended from that wound
An accident?
He followed again, wondering

Heaviness of her movements

Manner fluid, dreamlike
Guthrie stopped cold
That morning he’d followed her on horseback

The morning after the storm

No one had spoken of it
As if it hadn’t taken place at all
Eventually this path would take her
To the road where they’d first met up

She was sleepwalking. Had to be.

Increased his pace a little
Didn’t take long to catch up with her
Stomach lurched again
Her eyes were wide open

She took several trancelike steps

She slowed and stopped
“Ma’am.” Guthrie touched the edge of his tam
She crossed her arms in front of her
“I don’t think he’ll be coming, after all.”

And she turned to walk back along the path

Guthrie dashed smartly to overtake her
Slowed to a walk
She looked at him
Her gaze traveling through him

Smile flittered across her lips

Eased next to Guthrie
Slipped her hand between his arm and waistcoat
He crooked his elbow
Arm and arm with Lady Moncrieffe

Nearly dragging him along with single-mindedness

The long walk to Kinnoull an unsettling stroll
Her bosom pressed against his elbow
Her hip brushing his thigh
Was she awake or asleep?

How could he be so fortunate among men

Coming across her each time
She took these strange odysseys?
Perhaps this worked as a penance
For not putting an end to his poaching


If the Good Lord meant to show him
What it meant to be a shepherd
Who was Guthrie Carmichael to argue?
He would see his wayward lamb home

No harm done

No one the wiser again if they were lucky
Outline of castle loomed
In faint light of approaching dawn
No word had passed between them

They reached a door he'd never seen before

Could see that it gaped there, still open
Why the turmoil swirling in his stomach?
He led her to the doorway
Opened it a little wider

And passed her through

Extending the arm she’d been clutching
Till she was over the threshhold
He watched her feet
Assuring that she didn’t trip

Then he looked up into her face

Before he knew whether he was up
Down or turned on his ear
There she was - planting her lips on his
Lady Moncrieffe stepped back

Eyes trained on him

In the most unnerving manner
Shining with languorous flame
Before he had a chance to stammer anything coherent
The corners of her lips curled

A provocative smile

“I’ll wait for you,” she purred
Beginning to walk inside
She turned her head to glance at him
Lips closing over invitations unspoken

Lashes dropped to hide desire in her eyes

Then she was gone, swallowed into the shadows
Guthrie stood there for a long while
Unable to move out of the doorway
The words she’d spoken

Commanded him against any will of his own

Like a man from the old tales, her spell cast on him
And nothing he could do to resist her
Come now, lad. She’s dreaming.
That invitation was not meant for her gamekeeper

For whom, then?

Her poor husband, that’s who.
He reached into the darkness of Kinnoull
His fingers groped for the doorhandle
As if reaching into a hive

Crawling with bees

Carefully, he pulled the door shut
He would post himself on watch not too far away
Keep his eye out
In case she wandered again

He’d light up his pipe, finish his smoke

There’d be no sleep
Not for him
Not after that look
Into his ladyship’s eyes

- Julia Smith, 2009

Annette says Left me wondering what will happen between them.

Sweet Talking Guy says I think there must be something in the Look!

Anthony North recalls early writing he ripped up - All the stories & characters have reappeared, but it's amazing how we change over time.


Annette Gallant said...

Happy Easter, Julia!

I like your poem. Left me wondering whether she'll venture off like that again. And if so, what will happen between them.

SweetTalkingGuy said...

Phew, I think there must be something in the Look!

anthonynorth said...

Very well done.
I remember, a couple of years into my writing, doing 7 short novels in one year. A couple of years later I ripped them all up - they were total rubbish.
All the stories & characters have reappeared, but it's amazing how we change over time.

Fledgling Poet said... always take me back in time with your poems.

Julia Smith said...

Annette - Sleepwalking unfortunately plagues Lady Moncrieffe. But without it, she and Guthrie would have never 'met', so to speak.

Sweet Talking Guy - my husband laughs at my obsessive searching through pictures until I find the expression I'm looking for. But it really does help me when I'm writing.

Anthony - yes, quite a few years on and five years into my writers' group, and I can proudly say I have improved over time when I look at this first effort!

Fledgling Poet - I live in a time warp. I'm never where I am at present. I'm forever in the past, or in a fantasy world. Just not a contemporary woman in any way (when it comes to fiction.) Pratically and politically, however, I'm a feminist. Weird but true.

gautami tripathy said...

Fantasy, History, romance-all revealed to me in an interesting way. I really like your narrative poetry.

Pablo Neruda rewritten

Kill Word Verification

Akelamalu said...

Happy Easter Julia.

I love the poem. :)

Anonymous said...

i like how you've structured it--it gives it a lot of tension!

Dorothy said...

Fascinating. I loved it.

Julia Smith said...

Gautami - what I've been doing is taking a prose scene and paring it down to its pure essence. I've really enjoyed this process.

Akelamalu - thanks for reading all my poems! It means a lot.

Artpredator - thanks! That definitely means a lot, coming from you.

Dorothy - :-D

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

I like these characters a lot, too. I'd love to see you keep working on this project.

Julia Smith said...

Thanks, Susan! I'll return to them at some point. At the moment I'm working hard on my gardener Robbie and the laundry maid, Helen.