This solitary juggernaut of bones
for ever balanced on the marble plain
looms above me.
Light filters through the opaque roof
hen coop wire trapped in glass.
I clutch the stout cardboard ticket
date and number cleanly stamped.
The bulk of this building unnerves me
I am breathing inside a stone monster.
I listen to the sounds –
chiselled clicks of a man’s steel tipped heels
the shoosh of my rubber soled sandals
whispers that scuttle round the silent body
like a mouse.
Everything is watching me – the walls,
the dinosaur, the attendant in the next room.
amid the basement’s classical columns
Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel roars
on a giant pianola, baroque machines
burst into life, steam engines
are fired, brass pistons plunge, everywhere
belts and flywheels flail like a fantastic
The smell of metal polish, whale oil lubricant,
the damp of my father’s harris tweed jacket
(a whiff of the Western Isles, coasters,
seaweed, mines, quarries).
In his pocket the clip of a biro
catches the light
as he bends down to usher me
into the same magic quarter
of the revolving door.
© Mary Robinson 2010
This poem is the first poem in my collection The Art of Gardening (Flambard Press 2010). I dedicated the collection to my father. Now I am republishing the poem on my blog in his memory. As a child I loved visiting museums with him. A special treat was to catch the train into Birmingham on a cold, wet, winter Saturday (in summer we would be outdoors) and visit the Science Museum or the Art Gallery. He taught me to be interested in everything and to write about it. I will miss his companionship, generosity and sense of humour.
James Hastings Ball (1921 – 2014)