Friday, May 02, 2014

A Ballad for Joe and Heidi

I have changed the title to “A” ballad rather than “The” because I realise this poem is far from definitive, others may write their own ballads of the same subjects, also I may try again. Clearly also, the first stanza owes something to LP Hartley’s:

“The past is another country; they do things differently there.”

I would like to thank RR (formerly known as LDP) and LK  for their encouragement and support for the idea behind this ballad, which is I hope a beginning of something more…

Sitges is a town famous for its Bohemian atmosphere and long beach on the Costa Dorada 


Finally here is a link to Joe’s book of sonnets Handbook for Explorers with photographs by Lucy Kempton. It is a deluxe colour edition. A beautiful book visually and   aurally    A second more affordable edition for the pocket or bag may soon appear…





A Ballad of Heidi and Joe


First we must draw a country of the mind,

its maps and contours, pictures; then agree

to go there. If it’s anywhere we’ll find

the explorer’s life, it’s in another country,

a country with a Sitges and an August sea

and with a Tunbridge Wells where they’re content

walking both together on the pavement.


Who swam the furthest, talked the most, was thinner,

understood people best is hard to know;

who could divine an animal’s agenda,

some would say Heidi, some that it was Joe.

It is a fact: until just a while ago,

not as some couples,  one leader, one behind,

they walked both together on the pavement,


crossed over to the sand and breathed sea air.

Their sufferings and illnesses seemed past;

the future like a strong and rusty stair

led upwards to a landscape set to last;

they did not know its light was fading fast;

the past in front of them, their present was behind,

walking both together on the pavement.


Whole stories hide here; pictures stun with colour;

trees ebb like tides at night, by day a-buzz

with multiples of wing and throat. A cooler

and glasses, Ipad, he waits to greet us

with maps and plans, and later on he’ll tweet us

with routes that he and Heidi have in mind

walking both together on the pavement,


as if we too with root and flower could stay

unmindful of the assassin, changeless summer,

within the panorama of this day;

not noticing the sky’s not getting dimmer,

nor fireflies by right begin to glimmer.

Our shadows lengthen, leave them both behind,

walking both together on the pavement.



Tom said...

One can see them still, though never did I meet them. Lovely.

Lucy said...

Thank you Ken, so much.

Roderick Robinson said...

Ken: I read it through and was left with a repeated effect I needed to track down. It didn't take long; it was of course the word "they" (or "their" or "them"). Interspersed with "he" and "she" but returning to that insistent third person plural. A common enough word, simple too, but they're always the best if you can make them work for you, This you did.

I'd seen the closeness of their deaths as tragic and it remains that way for them. For us, though, the closeness allows us to think of them as a unity as well as individuals and you have seized on this for your wending journey.

It was apt that there should be a hint of dispute, (Who swam the furthest, talked the most...) since it was a partnership based on amicable disagreement among other things. That had to be there.

The tone is gentle but the characters are three-dimensional if not four-dimensional. And they exist in a combined location. They are recognisably my friends and you remind me - in an elegiac way - about what I'm missing. I couldn't have asked for better.

Rouchswalwe said...

This ballad is musical and comforting.

marja-leena said...

Beautiful! I can still see them together, just as we saw them in their home in 2009, and will always see them that way. Thank you so much for this.

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

I didn't know Joe but almost felt I'd met him through his appearances in blogs I read regularly, such as Lucy's, Marja-Leens'a and Roderick's. So I very much appreciate your poem, Ken, and offer my sincere condolences for the loss of your brother and friend and of his soul-mate Heidi.

Sidney said...

Brilliant. A perfect finish to Lucy's tale of going and being there.

Ellena said...

I think I started reading Mr.H's blog in 2012. The day I saw Sitges mentioned and ever since I ask myself if maybe I crossed the couple's path in 2001.
I am thinking of magic in the air during their strolls.

Lucas said...

What a wonderful response and gathering of comment! Joe and Heidi would have greatly appreciated it and I am most moved.

Tom, Many thanks. That there is a sense in which Joe and Heidi appear or are seen in the poem is what I had hoped.

Lucy, Many thanks for your insights and encouragement to go ahead.

Robbie, The "he" and "she" and "they" aspect is something that developed with the compression of the form. I like what you say about the closeness of their deaths allowing us to find them as a "unity".
Thanks also for helping me to think about the ballad form.

Rouchswalwe, it is great to hear your comment: musical and comforting seems to reflect the concept of a ballad.

marja-leena - thank you for reading and responding so favourably. The idea of still "seeing" them is I think what I hoped for.

Natalie - thank you so much for your reading and understanding, through the magic of blogging, and communication. Joe and Heidi would have recognised and appreciated this greatly.

Sidney - Many thanks. Reading your comment makes me realise how valuable a set of blogs can be.

Ellena - your references to "Mr H" are most touching, and even though I have never been to Sitges, I too can sense the magic in the air.

Roderick Robinson said...

SEASON'S GRATITUDE (Because the familiar phrases at this time of year don't work for me.)
For being a mainstay in my attempts to write verse.