It begins on a negative note
surely no month offers less
than this. Novemberish is dreary after all
and more so now pollution pundits
ban the bonfire whilst gainsayers of gaiety
frown and tut at the ritual burning
of an historic effigy.1
I recall woollen gloves and frigid hands
eyes that stung with wood smoke from the blaze.
Our gaze hypnotised by tongues of fire
licking up all the dry dead leaves
of a faded Autumn. We’d searched the garden piles
for hedgehogs; sleepy balls of fleas and prickles
gingerly transposed to box or barn. On the fifth night
a rustic Guy would top the pyre, and in our hands
sparklers sizzled, sausages burst their skins
amongst embers and all the bangs and fizz
of family fireworks faded out
like a late afternoon conversation.
Lest we forget, November is a bloody month.2 The sanguine poppy
symbol of bloodletting keeps us remembering. More ancient still
the livestock ritual slaughter before winter starvation.
Meat dried, fat rendered, skin leathered,
only the carcase left for the bone fire, cauterised to cinders.
And where the plough furrowed the fields, ashes cast before seed.
Arable acres are turned again now. I rejoice seeing rich earthy hues
and the rare blue of skies showing through
skeleton trees of Ash.
- The Gunpowder Plot to blow up parliament in 1605 was foiled – bonfires were lit to celebrate. Commemorated every year since with fireworks and burning effigies of the main Catholic conspirator, Guy Fawkes. ? to celebrate Fawkes’ execution or honouring his attempt to do away with the government.
- Blōtmōnað – literally “blood-month” in Old English was the name for November.
A somewhat nostalgic no-nonsense nominative poem for Sanaa's Poetics prompt: November