1980 and Delia

In 1980 my life at home was (1) family and housekeeping, (2) nursing, (3) boats and sea fishing, (4) dogs.

My life at work was the (1) the company, (2) my customers (3) my job.(4) my sales and sales administration team. 

And, in between these, my life since the early seventies was and had been Delia. A segment small in time but massive in meaning. It is no exaggeration to say that, whether or not she was conscious of it, Delia saved my way of life if not life itself. I do not want here to sound a note of self-excuse for seeking and finding a lover whilst my wife, who I had loved and still loved, was permanently disabled. But I simply cannot conceive of how I might have fared through these deeply troubled times without her and those necessarily brief moments of respite that we were able to share. Dee was, when I first met her, a 28 years old divorcee and mother of two young boys living in rented accommodation close by her place of employment as a barmaid in Gosport's Jolly Roger pub. From the beginning we shared a physical attraction, but we shared much else as well; our love of books, writers and writing for one instance. Who is there amongst us, I wonder, who can understand and chart the origins of their own behaviour, who is there who consistently behaves against their own instinct, exactly in accord with the human definition of what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong’?

By 1980 I had begun to scribble lines of poetry on my travels, then had started to take this versification more seriously. In the mid nineties I wrote a very long narrative poem entitled 'A Walk Downtown'. It relates the thoughts of a lonely, somewhat drunken young man walking back to his cold bedsit after a Saturday night out in Dublin ... included in the forty or so verses, this one where he is considering his affair with the wife of a very dangerous friend ...

What purpose has that urge that blots all other things,
And drains your mind of all except a certain she?
That has you risk what’s safe to find that old glory,
That grows, a fresh pink rose in thorny secrecy
To prick you, have you bleed no matter what you give?
This agony, it moves from just a thing of glands?
‘Forsaking all others’? But a rose that’s not your own,
Is a fire by which you, cold and lost, may warm your hands?
Questions like your shadow leap ahead across the way.
Their answers dancing, swirling in unread shades of grey.

At any rate what started out for me as a brief encounter soon morphed as if by itself into a way of life at once calming and exciting that had overcome any agony of conscience. Dee was my shelter from the storm. And there was born that so mysterious thing that we call 'love' between man and woman; the thing that transcends, uplifts, indeed ennobles our acts of lust. Again in the mid-nineties, whilst staying with an American business friend and his wife in Al-Khobar, Saudi Arabia, I was asked a question. The enquirer was their daughter, a young, female US Army officer. Over dinner with the  family it became obvious that this lady was suffering a severe bout of lost love, or lover, or both. Her question to me went, shockingly simple  ... 'What the hell is love?'  I said that nobody could answer that other than by illustration of some personal, real-life example, adding that poets, writers and artists had since time began addressed the very same question without finding solutions other than by example. You might, |I told her, Just as well be asking me, what is light? All I do know it that real, unimagined, two way love is heaven rather than hell. Then on the way back to my hotel, three hundred monotonous cross-desert kilometres away I wrote this and e-mailed it that evening to her parents, for their daughter Cindy  ...

A Question of Love

“I want to know what love it,” starts the song
And then goes on, “I want you to tell me,”
But the answer may in history only be;
With just the question's echo left so some
Feel cold the vacuum when replies don’t come.

“Come live with me and be my love,”  he wrote
Went on; “And we shall all the pleasures prove:”
Four hundred years ago that poet's love
He saw reflected in his lovers eyes
The truth, pure love, now with the poet lies.

But there are many kinds of love; “Ask not,”
He said, “What my country does for me, just
Ask, my country, that I love, what I must
Do for thee?”  Golden words that burn so hot -
What greater than for love, to die and rot?

“I love (whatever,)” some car windows say
Thus take that truth of brightest human light
Dim and de-value it, thus make it trite:
Without true love can we the pain defray
Of nothing at the dying of the day?

"And He so loved the world...” It tells of blood,
(That Book), and of the life that’s here on earth
It’s only we who’re blessed to know from birth
The joy, the strength of love so fine and good,
Able thus to reach and touch the face of God.

“I want to know what love is,” still you ask:
And yes, it could be all that you can feel
Or need to feel or all of life that’s real
Or nought for you or once just now and gone,
Or yours to have and hold from this day on.

By 1980 Delia ('Dee') was as much a part of my life as was I of hers. I had no idea where we were going with this so-called 'affair' but I knew she had become that essential balance on my dangerous tightrope between past and future. And, as I shall relate, the time would come when Dee would choose to walk out of the shadows and become, with her boys, a solid and enduring part of all of our lives.

This is another poem I composed, in 1980, for Delia’s St Valentine's Day ...

A sonnet for Delia

My mind's eye sees her as I saw her first
And still she thrills me as those years ago
When Nature's breathless clamour did its worst
And best when deathless love began to grow.
 So easily she found my heart, my mind,
And calmed me without over-tenderness;
She uncomplaining led me from behind,
Shared failure's pain, shared joy in my success.
This day of Valentine I feel you still,
And closer are you, Delia, to me;
My crowded mind knows that I ever will
As from my heart and soul I reach for thee.
Mysterious love shall be our saving grace
Through time beyond this ever-loving place.


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