Bus Rides With Faulkner – Mike Bannister

The George Crabbe Memorial Poetry Competition
2008 Crabbe Memorial Competition – Second Prize
Adjudicator: Graham Fawcett

Nine minutes from the factory gate,
in the quiet of a municipal library, I find myself
confronted, suddenly, by an ancient bear, in the woods
of Yoknapatawpha County; and for three years, night
and morning, ten mile between a hamlet and a town,
Faulkner is my friend and fellow traveller, aboard
the 147 Midland Red. Soon, I become the sly purloiner
of ‘works time’ reading Absalom, even at my bench,
transported by dark fables of the mythic South.

As the space is taken, money changes hands;
roads turn clamourous with all the light and shade
of human kind. Blood lines interweave, the present
embryonic in what went before. Compson, MacCaslin,
Sartoris, Varner, Snopes, each casual dynasty realised
through a Bourbon haze, by that shy genius, clothed
in huckleberry gear; the sole owner and proprietor
of a mansion at the river bend, a sawmill, and a jail,
places where the past has not quite started.

From half-remembered things, he moulds
a three-mile sentence, the clauses tentative at first;
the truth extemporised (it is the age of Jazz) fired
to perfection, given tongue: lingo of slaves and hunters,
the cadences of holy books, all miscegenate, with river
dirt, salt and time, like iron, enduring, magnificent.
Now, fifty years on, he waits for me; and some day
soon, we’ll ride again the dusty road to Jefferson,
me and the prince of modernists, the way it was.

Copyright © Mike Bannister 2008

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