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
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
Movement in the distance
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
He had to be imagining
It couldn’t be
The ghost was his mistress
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
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.