Industrious as ever, my father built the revolution
on our dining table, laid out its components
on their sprue, staked with the pain
of detail painted before sticking
to the paper rules his left brain
clung to like the map of a machine.
This was not work. That dwelt among
the coining presses and the rolling mill he was
called back to some nights and on Saturday mornings
my entertainment but not his hobby.
The odour of drying Humbrol pervaded
our meals, four-masters on the sideboard
trophies for his engineering, for all those evenings
studying non-ferrous metals like the lacquered gold
that brushed the Royal Sovereign’s flank. Locate and cement
the dried out pieces spread as if Newcomen’s
workshop, one thirty-second of its scale,
had flown to now and Sutton Coldfield,
pumps, pistons, rods inert. I preferred
a works emergency, the weekend dash
to clatter and the smell of burning copper,
urgent men at work in holes beneath the plant,
the splash of cupro-nickel blanks
new minted. But everything must start
with quiet assemblage, one single mind to make
a model work. Beside the ships that never
put to sea, unswelling sails, sheets untugged
this engine swung and one piece nudged another
powered by his fingers, sometimes mine.
Under our steam, our working stroke,
precision rocked and tipped from side to side
the beam that he had made
into a smile.
(winner of the 2012 Black Country Living Museum poetry competition)
Jacqui Rowe is a poet, publisher (Flarestack Poets), mentor, workshop leader, independent literature producer, and Poetry School tutor. Her published pamphlets are Blue (Flarestack), Apollinaire (Perdika) and Paint (Flarestack Poets). Specialising in poetry and visual art in heritage settings, she has worked with museums and the National Trust. Trained and mentored by John Killick, she makes poetry with people with dementia in care homes, day care and hospitals, particularly on a long-term project run by the Courtyard, Hereford.