Sunday, April 19, 2009

Poetry Train Monday - 97 - As Prisons Go

This is the next in my found poetry series, which I've been doing since the new year. I've taken it from one of my manuscripts, featuring Jocelyne, Lady Moncrieffe, the Dowager Countess of Kinnoull. It's the early 1820's near Crieff, Scotland.

Guthrie Carmichael is a Highland Scot working on her lowland estate as the gamekeeper. His decision to stop poaching from her estate requires one last delivery of game in town.

I've based Lady Moncrieffe on Canadian actress Neve Campbell. Guthrie is based on English actor Sean Bean.

You can read a previous poem about Jocelyne HERE.

You can Ride the Poetry Train by clicking HERE.

As Prisons Go

I arranged to be taken into Crieff
Meet up with my sister coming in by coach
First time in four years. Four years!
Disheartening thing - if not for Finlay’s death

Would this visit even take place?

The MacDougal resentments
Only stretched so far, thank Heaven
Whom did I see seated across the square
But the gamekeeper, Carmichael

Soldier stopped before him

Gaze traveled up to the red jacket
Before he had a chance to blink
One of those booted feet kicked
The pipe from Carmichael’s mouth

Scarred hand reached down

Took up the sacks. Carmichael
Kept his gaze trained on the soldier
“What would this be? Eh?
You wouldn’t be the lord of these parts, now?”

Carmichael neither moved nor spoke

Soldier lifted grouse from sack
Dropped the rest into the dust
Dangled bird from taloned feet
Too close to Carmichael’s face

“Name!” the soldier barked

Black boot planted on Carmichael’s hand
“Stop! Stop, I beg you! What is going on here?
Let him be!”
Pulled at red-jacketed arm
Sergeant shook me off angrily

Until he saw who it was

Guthrie snatched hand to chest
Soldier saluted sharply
“This man is poaching from the estate.
I’ve apprehended him for you.”

I recalled these very sacks

Fixed to the back of the gamekeeper's saddle
That morning after the storm
That morning when he'd found me
Wet, bedraggled, desperate

Had seen me safely home

I'd sleepwalked but
He'd found me
Found me with these sacks
Fixed to the back of his saddle

Carmichael hung his head

Cradled his hand
I stared at his crumpled hat
Lying in the dust
“You have made a rather unfortunate error, Sergeant.

This man is my gamekeeper.”

Carmichael looked up
Soldier’s bravado paled
“Can you stand, Mr. Carmichael?”
I extended my hand to him

“Don’t be too concerned, Milady.”

Carmichael's voice so ragged
“Where is your regiment stationed
I asked
"I should like to have a word

With your commanding officer.”

Soldier colored till his face
Was indistinguishable from
Scarlet fullcloth of jacket
Bead of sweat trickled its way

From under black-plumed bonnet

Down his rough-skinned jawline
It vanished in the gap between
Neck and stiff white collar choking throat
“May I speak to you privately, Ma’am?”

“By all means, Sergeant.”

We stepped aside, walked a few paces
Along the wall. Stopped
Bent our heads together
In rapt discussion for some minutes

Soldier broke away abruptly

As though he’d been stung
He saluted, then moped from the square
I turned toward the carriage
Carmichael helped me up the step

My sister waiting for me

Carmichael withdrew his hand
Cradling his sore one
“You had better get in,” I said
“You have been injured, after all.”

He nodded toward his horse

Waiting patiently across the square
“Then be quick about your business.
Make a point of stopping at the castle
When you return."

He opened and closed his mouth

Like a fish in the grass
He nodded his assent. His hand
Moved up to tug at hat that wasn’t there
His fingers hung suspended in midair

For an awkward moment

Then ran through his hair
“Drive on, Willis,” I called out
Old man clucked to the horses
Carriage lurched forward

Carmichael stepped out of the way

Before wheels ran over his toes
I stood, my back to him
In the pale green drawing room
“Thank you for coming,” I said

“Your servant, Ma’am,” he answered

Bowing slightly
“Are you?”
“I am.”

I broke from where I stood

Moving slowly round the edges of the room

“I would question your definition
Of ‘servant’, Mr. Carmichael.
You have been using my late husband
And me to suit your own purposes.”

he croaked

I halted, turned and faced him
“If you were poaching that morning
After the storm...why
Did you come to my aid?”

Carmichael spluttered

As if he’d swallowed a
Gulp of water down the wrong pipe
“I couldn't very well leave you out there!”
“Another man might have done just that.

Well, we are in a fine pickle, are we not?”

“Aye, Milady. We are, that.”
“You should be turned over to
The magistrate, and have done with you."

He returned my gaze, giving himself over to me.

I shuddered

“Why did ye tell that lie for me?”
He asked
“Laird Moncrieffe - he would have
Had me in gaol by now, sure.”

“Perhaps. The man who fancies himself

The new lord of Kinnoull
Would be even more severe than that.
Think hard, now, and consider carefully
What I am going to offer you.

I once offered you a room here

To recuperate from your wounds
But you refused. I’m afraid I must
Make that offer again
And I beg you to accept this time.

I have need of your cottage.

As prisons go, I hope you’ll find
This one to be exceptional.
I, myself, have always considered this
To be a home.

Mr. Carmichael, I possess information

You would prefer me not to pass along.
You likewise hold secrets of mine.
‘Men do not despise a thief
If he steals to satisfy his soul

When he is hungry.'"

He looked as if he'd just
Dashed the contents of an upset stomach
Extending my right hand, I said
“I believe we must shake on it.”

Carmichael rallied

Taking my hand in his
After one shake for form’s sake
We let go with expediency
“I’ll ring for Kearney,” I said

Picking up the bell to shake it furiously

- Julia Smith, 2009