April 30th…a poet is born. I wonder how Tony’s baker father celebrated the arrival of his son? 77 years ago Tony Harrison made his first, newborn sounds; did his mother know she had brought a new poet into the world? A man not afraid to state what many are thinking….especially around opposition to war and demands for social justice; poetry carries the words which cannot be said in any other way.
I came across this poem and was amazed….I suspect cake isn’t much more than a teatime snack for poets….and as for the cake icing? Well, a glorious wedding cake deserves to be admired, but sugar icing may be used to create words which will melt away, within the mouth of the witness. The imagery is so simple…those sand castles of childhood which took the summer’s day to create; how easily they are washed away as the waves move up the shore…..a way to teach children that creations may not last forever, but their memory holds the warmth of the sun and the joy of a parent sharing minutes of childhood again.
Tony Harrison celebrates his father’s creativity, his skill at icing wedding cakes, and his philosophical attitude to their immediate destruction.
The Icing Hand by Tony Harrison
That they lasted only till the next high tide bothered me, not him whose labour was to make sugar lattices demolished when the bride, with help from her groom’s hot hand, first cut the cake.
His icing hand, gritty with sandgrains, guides my pen when I try shaping memories of him and his eyes scan with mine those rising tides neither father nor his son could hope to swim.
His eyes stayed dry while I, the kid, would weep to watch the castle that had taken us all day to build and deck decay, one wave-surge sweep our winkle-stuccoed edifice away.
Remembrance like ice cake crumbs in the throat, remembrance like windblown Blackpool brine overfills the poems shallow moat and first, ebbing, salts, then, flowing, floods this line.