To Many Coats


Yesterday I walked through Pimlico
in bands of sun and shadow, wearing too many coats.
Spring landing in lemon drops through winter’s cloak of grey.

In a shop
in silhouette, an old man bent, a lover’s gentle pose
stroking life back into something dead or near so
a table faded and dull.

I stood in wonder of the moment,
magic to the thinking man in the use of tools and hands
the pleasure seen in a face revealing again
to something worn and jaded.

Each stroke of sanding block a breath of life restored
and more,
for in his labour he was adding love to wood and care to grain
to make it more than it had been.

Fifty season of coatings I have worn, layer on layer
seasons of change, bending and blending into a world of shine and glitter.
The coats of fine varnish and polish and shine, donned for you and others,

The returning and reshaping,
the mending of ways comfortable but uncouth.
From youth to age, changed so now I am know but not to myself.

I watch him sand, a labour of love and time
to restore shape and life to something once considered trite.
Not quite bright enough
or gay enough to suit.

Remodelled, painted and scumbled layer by layer
until nothing of itself was there
but a vague shape of what once had been

How deep would I have to go now to find me,
how many layers of varnish,
how many smiles and nods recanted.

How many fashion changes and rearranges of face and posture
to find something familiar beneath this exterior
How deep to find skin and blood and grain and real wood.

I watch him work and see him smile all the while happy
as he releases something unique,
as he frees the soul of glowing mahogany,

African skies and dark warm soil and grain of growth.
That glow under patient work and gentle stroke.
I hear the song of the paper, a rasp, like ants working to remodel history.
Not to change but to restore.

I can watch no more.
The sun is gone now the day turned grey and cold
and I feel old
beneath too many coats.

© Dave Kavanagh 2016


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