In this place there are empty shapes.
Spaces, moving. Here, there, everywhere.
Spaces moving among us, about us.
The shape of the missing,
we no longer hear, or see.
People we once knew, touched,
talked with, laughed with, cried too,
they were features of this place, this town,
they are missing now. Do we miss them?
Do we have a sense of the empty space they once filled?
Once, not so long ago, a month or so,
when I was engaged on my daily walk,
I would meet older people, some very old,
Late 80’s, early nineties, uncomplaining,
walking chipper, a smile, a wave.
Once I found a friend on the new river bridge,
he began reminiscing, memories of the river,
of the sandbanks below the old bridge,
when GI’s threw coins onto the river bank,
they were leaving for D day — here, there, gone.
Coins they would never need again, useless.
He and his friends crossed the river,
on the stepping stones marking the old ford,
the stepping stones are gone, destroyed
by a flood prevention scheme — history gone.
Missing, like those GI’s, missing like my friends.
He mused, my friends are missing too.
A woman in her nineties, the oldest.
Fit as a fiddle, mind as bright as a pin,
sharp as a needle, and no side on her.
One day she talked about some clubs.
Places she went to with friends during the war.
Tin shed clubs, what would be called shabeens,
few of them standing today, she talked of the dancing,
her eyes sparkled, she was always laughing.
She walked her neighbour’s dog to the park.
It was something to do through winter,
something to keep her mind occupied.
The last time I saw her, she was running
through moving traffic, dragging the dog.
She disappeared then, no sight of her since.
One day I asked is this like a game being played?
Like hide and seek, or blind man’s bluff?
Shall we look for them in the garden?
Out in the shed, or the garage, or in the attic?
Under the carpets, under the trendy oak floors?
Behind the doors? - they must be somewhere.
We will look for where they are hiding. Hidden
away from us, gone away from us, gone.
This is a place,
Where time becomes a word — why?
This is a place, where breath takes the form of a question.
How did this happen?
This is a place, where a last breath marks a person
Where? There? Everywhere? Missing?
Pontypridd Town is a meeting place — it is also the place which all the characters in the poem are elderly residents, the place they grew up in, had fun, worked raised families and lived long lives.
The town is a meeting place, a meeting of three rivers and valleys where a large indoor market and open market have been established. The town is a bustling, busy, thriving, place of skullduggery and sharp deals; once a boom town, now a town that has seen hard times and looks a little down at heel. It could do with a little luck — my cheery elderly friends have seen it all — the ups and downs, a depression, a war- and came through it all with a cheerfulness that brings a smile when I think of them.
Pontypridd is a place of Easter and Summer Fairs-Danter’s Fairs that plied all the valley towns. Fairs that are the remnants of the old festivals to mark the solstice and the Christian calendar -the older context lost in the newer religious puritan revivals disdain for such activities and as a result we have lost so much. Loss again…
My friends talked a lot about Danter’s fairs, a meeting place for the young. The Fair still comes to Pontypridd, rides that reflect the horror liked by this generation bread and buttered on online gothic terror. Its a young persons pleasure. But it always was.
Covid has heightened not just the deaths of the elderly, but the loss of knowledge and memories of their lives and experiences. Memories that are unrecorded. We are unable to hand them on.
Here. There. Everywhere. Gone.