On writing ‘4am’ & ‘Sleet’ – Marc Hamer

As I sit here writing at my kitchen table, a ladybird is crawling on my leg. I accidentally bring a lot of wildlife home from my work, beetles and spiders, the occasional grasshopper under my collar, ants in the creases of my work trousers or fallen into my boots. The ladybird on my knee is trying to unfurl its wings, the wing cases hinge open and the wings come out, one of them is broken. Perhaps I damaged it, I don’t know. Earlier I was clearing leaves, a robin hopping behind me clearing the beetles and worms I exposed. Every step we take on this earth has consequences. Each evening when I get home I scrub out from under my nails the messy business of birth and sex and death and decay,

A poet needs a job and I have the perfect job for a poet, I make my living as a gardener, I get my hands dirty every day nurturing seeds and pulling weeds, playing with chaos, tuning it up slightly to make it a bit more beautiful, planting a red garden or a white one, sometimes embracing chaos and sometimes destroying it.

There are rhythmical cycles that thump along; a weekly mowing, a yearly pruning of roses, pruning the wisteria three times a year, the annual August laurel hedge cut, picking apples when they tell me they are ready, waiting for the frost before I prune, digging up and storing Dahlias after two frosts then replanting them when the risk of frost has gone, making compost, planning, planting, weeding and clearing, annuals, biennials and perennials. Rhythms, long cycles and short ones interweave driven by the ever changing weather, the seasons, day length and temperature.

Today, a long slow walk behind a mower, two acres, four hours at the pace of a slow fine machine, mowing a path in the green, making stripes, up, then down then up again in a labyrinthine walk that takes me, that cannot help but take me inside myself to whatever is there on any given day. There is nothing to do but reflect. And this morning John asked me to write something about my poems so here behind this mower I wonder about that.

I often spend days without seeing another human being and unable to use my words aloud, words come silently creeping in on insect legs. Sometimes they start to build a nest, develop a theme, so I let them uncritically and sometimes the words just scatter, insubstantially blowing by and I watch them. I like to write bits, tiny bits of stuff that fly by and could be gone if I didn’t grab them, bits of ordinary stuff that I can hold in my head in their entirety. ‘Sleet’ is one of these bits, picked out of the air on a drive home.

I have written ever since I learned to read and I am old now and I don’t sleep too well and my world has become simple and rounded and short. I have no ambition other than to be fully in every moment and leave quickly the moments that have passed.

When I was a boy, 16/17, I was homeless. Homeless people learn to hide, to become invisible. I slept rough under hedges and on beaches, I walked for miles, avoiding contact with other people. Like a bird I lived off bread and milk stolen from doorsteps in the early hours. I felt equal to the birds and the hedgehogs I slept with. Now, much older I feel that same sense of equality again, with the crow and the toad and the hawthorn, with the rain and wind, the things that I have a daily relationship with, my home, Wales, my house in Llandaff, my wife and ‘4am’.

Come and listen to Marc Hamer read his two poems from Issue Eight at Little Man Coffee in Cardiff tomorrow night, 15/11/17, from 730pm. 

Marc Hamer was born in Manchester and lived variously in Blackpool, Wigan and Stoke-on-Trent before moving to Wales over thirty years ago. After spending a period homeless, then working on the railway he returned to education and studied fine art in Manchester and Stoke-on-Trent. He has worked in art galleries, marketing, graphic design, as a magazine editor and taught creative writing in Cardiff Prison before becoming a gardener which he’s enjoyed being now for many years. A great deal of the inspiration for his poetry comes from spending most of his time outdoors. Mark is a member of The British Haiku Society. He lives with his wife in Cardiff and is working on a collection of poetry.

© Marc Hamer, 2017. Image © Jo Mazelis, 2017.