Sunday, December 18, 2011

An especially topical 'Sunday Poem'

Well the wind has relented today; but for most of this week it has been howling down out of the north-west at 15, 20, 25 mph. And every one of those miles represents a degree or so of windchill.

Feverish with a cold, and struggling to sleep anyway through the ominous resonating of my building, fragments of this piece by Ted Hughes kept popping into my mind.

I think I'd first come upon it as a teenager. I then chose to use it a few times in poetry classes I taught myself when I became a schoolteacher for a while a few years later. Wonderful how obstinately poetry resides in the memory, when so much else is lost! I hadn't read this poem - or even given it a thought - in at least a dozen years; but I found I could recall it almost word for word.


This house has been far out at sea all night,
The woods crashing through darkness, the booming hills,
Winds stampeding the fields under the window
Floundering black astride and blinding wet

Till day rose; then under an orange sky
The hills had new places, and wind wielded
Blade-light, luminous black and emerald,
Flexing like the lens of a mad eye.

At noon I scaled along the house-side as far as
The coal-house door. Once I looked up -
Through the brunt wind that dented the balls of my eyes
The tent of the hills drummed and strained its guy-rope,

The fields quivering, the skyline a grimace,
At any second to bang and vanish with a flap;
The wind flung a magpie away and a black-
Back gull bent like an iron bar slowly. The house

Rang like some fine green goblet in the note
That any second would shatter it. Now deep
In chairs, in front of the great fire, we grip
Our hearts and cannot entertain book, thought,

Or each other. We watch the fire blazing,
And feel the roots of the house move, but sit on,
Seeing the window tremble to come in,
Hearing the stones cry out under the horizons.

Ted Hughes  (1930-1998)


Carolyn said...

How do the winds affect the smog?

Froog said...

Ah well, that can be the upside. They do usually clear the air for a few days, if we've had a spell of damp air.

However, during the winter months, the air is usually very dry. So, sometimes, you notice the wind seemingly bringing in additional pollution from wherever it's come from, or at any rate whipping up a lot of grit and sound and construction debris dust, and scouring skin and lungs with that.

The air quality seems to have been pretty poor this last week, and bouts of 'Beijing throat' seem to have been commonplace among my friends. However, I think there's a virus going round as well. I've been sick as a dog the last few days.

Froog said...

'Sound' for 'sand'?! That must be the subconscious influence of the Hughes poem!

Carolyn said...

What recommendations do you have for a virus sufferer?

Froog said...

Actually, though I'm a sceptic of traditional Chinese medicine in general, some of their cold rememdies are pretty good.

There's a brand of foul-tasting but very effective cough lozenges I use quite a bit. (Can't recall the name now - sorry.)

There's also a thing called, I think, pang da hai - which means something like 'fat seed'. It looks a bit like a dark almond, but when you put it in tea or hot water, it cracks open to release these jellyfish-like sheets of gelatin. It looks disgusting, but it's actually very easy to drink, and nicely soothing for a sore throat. It's supposed to have preventive qualities as well, but that I'm more doubtful about.

One of my favourite things for this time of year is ginger - in any form you can get. A more modern Chinese remedy is a Cola 'soup': you just simmer it for a little while to make it a bit more syrupy, and drink it as hot as you can. It's pretty good on its own, but greatly improved by adding some raw ginger.

There are also some Malaysian ginger candies you can usually get at foreign supermarkets here (there's a peanut butter and ginger version as well), which I really like.

And my new favourite barman, Jeff, has created a drink he calls 'Penicillin': which is a Scotch with lemon and honey and lots of muddled fresh ginger, and a spray of peaty Laphroaig single malt over the top.

I'm not sure how many of these options might be available to you. Where are you based, Carolyn?

Carolyn said...

Based in San Diego, California.

Thanks for the info. I'm going to remember your list for the future. This September I had my a virus plus laryngitis that wore me down. Generally, I'm in very good health (no colds for years).

Thanks again.