The Folly: first arc

 


 

The Folly’s first visitor is Henry Calmacott, lifelong bachelor, closest in his life to his brother Michael. Michael has not been seen since he vanished from a nursing home near the end of the Great War. To please his mother, more than from belief of his own, Henry asks the spirit callers to summong Michael. And to his sorrow, his brother answers. The story is that of a tragic convergence of circumstance, a meeting at Bernard Arthur’s farm, between Michael the fugitive, Bess the trouble-stirrer, Mathilda, Authur’s unhappy wife, and at a bad moment, Arthur himself.

 


 

Calmacott’s Brother (one)
Calmacott’s Brother (two)
The Farmer’s Wife (three)
The Farmer’s Wife (four)
Arthur (five)
Henry Calmacott (six)
Henry Calmacott (seven)
Unfortunate Death (eight)
Let Them Go (nine)

 


Calmacott’s Brother
michael calmacott wakes on the other side

Calmacott’s Brother
(one)

 

Maybe we were not fit

Not fit to live nor fit to die

A sower’s superfluity made as the parable’s seed

An abortion or a sturdy weed…howsoever Heaven wills it

Struck wherever we might fall

So the waters close

To see you slumped there in your seat

Grown peevish in your temper

Grown thinning at the temples

I think we must have been a pair

Of caricatures in the cartoon’s waiting chair

Unmarried brothers

And aren’t they queer, those two

Need dusting like the furniture

Remember though

A ringleader

Yes, a ring, a token, some magic lamp to light the way

So you would see clear

They only execute the ringleaders

Then how does a man of imagination

Find himself fingered

Smile at this, the hayfork that ran me through

Was destined, when they sent me home

I was the one who knew

 

Knew, Henry—

Remember us as lads

The flooded shaft, the pithead sealed up

And gypsies, so they’d always said

Took shelter by a secret way they’d made themselves

We never found it in our play

Well, it was the last month of the war

They had us all out of doors for a bonfire

That you must recall as well, you’d come down

Invited

I shook your hand…and so we parted

It wasn’t like us to embrace

 


Calmacott’s Brother
guest ghost appearing in Follymichael draws from henry the memory of moonlight excursions

 

Author’s note: This gentleman turned up in the background of my first illustration for Calmacott’s Brother, so I’m letting him have his moment.

 

Calmacott’s Brother
(two)

 

 

It was full dark by that time

We were not prisoners, only crippled men

Most, pleased enough to find their beds, but I—

‘Lieutenant, you’re well recovered,’ the doctor said

That mate of mine I’d introduced you to

 

Barnstow, and Quartermaster Jones, had got our orders

In Blighty we were safe from harm

In Blighty would remain

I’d spun a yarn

Camped like gypsies underground

A raiding party foraging

But bound to make amends one day

Keeping good accounts

‘It’s our chance,’ Barnstow said.

He’d plucked my sleeve. ‘It’s our chance, Michael.’

Do you recollect, Henry, how nights when the moon was full

We’d drop over the window ledge and roam the fields free

Bathed in astonishing illumination

So I’d supposed, as I’d been nominated chief

I still would know the country

A landmark would remind me

The devil walks by night, they say, we three

Having cast our lot with him, must pray he give us sight

We dossed in open air, hid ourselves by a hayrick

But when I awoke, the other two had gone

I may yet meet them on this side of things

But on that day, I met the farmer’s wife

 


Calmacott’s Brother
the-farmers-wife

The Farmer’s Wife
(three)

 

Mathilda Arthur, you have fallen far behind

Chair pulled near the gramophone, needles busy

Nellie Melba singing God save the king

Seems busy, knitting…quiets the mind

But that’s not doing your chores, girl

Get out. Get out now.

His pigeons, them he treasures so, and the county

show coming and the autumn manuring…

I pulled my old boots on

This was all Mr. Stewart’s doing

I hailed him. He made a show

Of not hearing, and I knew why.

Arthur has gone to Bristol

Same as he went to fetch me, years ago

when I came up from Alderney

To be his bride

His mad rages make them all afraid

I see Stewart’s Bessie come to take the hand he beckons with

Now he has a witness

When he speaks to Arthur’s wife

And Bessie’s face comes over spiteful

I see her fingers slick with grease

I almost think Stewart’s daughter is the hooligan

Been setting fires, marking stones with witch-signs

Burning effigies

I know she has been at the pigeons, glutting them with feed

 


Calmacott’s Brother

Farmer's Wife two

The Farmer’s Wife 
(four)

 

While I bent and cried, right hand

Rising to the hammering of my heart

Glass out of frames and littering the graveled floor

I cared more for Arthur’s blaming me

Says the music makes me deaf

His cuttings in their boxes

His wartime gambit, making brass

Adorning cemetery plots

Still all untouched by frost, it hasn’t come

I see him smash the gramophone and then

I see myself on hands and knees, alone

Scrubbing at the door stone

My own blood

‘Missus…pretty, them…geraniums’

I’ll not pay her any mind, I am spotting clues

Yes, my shoulders shook, I heard her laugh

‘Missus,’ again she whispers, ‘I have seen a man.’

A cork, a fat metal bolt, and worse

A basilisk’s egg, so I was told, white and pocked

Like coral from an ancient sea

Has this child never had a fancy?

Does she make her way in others’ rooms to find—

This, I’d dreamed must hold inside

Diamonds to deliver me, and treasured

When sentiment had lost all luster

For that the dream was sweet

—a missile, merely, a thing at hand?

‘And I said to him…’ Bessie tells me

‘Are you hungry? Come up to the house, then.’

 


Calmacott’s Brother

Fifth Calmacott: Arthur

Arthur
(five)

 

They do not often wish to hear, the ordinary man’s

Tale, though I suffer

Though I share…Henry Calmacott, is it?

Sir, with one or two well-padded aldermen

The company of the heathen damned

Came to that harsh resolve much sooner than I’d guessed

Would cross the street…it was no joke—and let me know it

That I was judged, condemned. The farmer’s union

Held their meetings in my absence

‘Ah, Arthur, was your name missed?

Too bad, I call that.’

And his eye said, Murderer

How deep I’d gone in debt

That patch I’d sown in oats one year

That never paid…no, nor even would extend me honour

That I, for one, had never overcharged the army

Burned one after another, and I don’t know how

She could have been so clever

I doubt her having confederates—

That friendlessness, and that she’d clenched her fist

Around my secret…was what I’d seen in Bessie,

If you’d like to know

The ’ricks all set afire

Mine and my neighbours’ to the north and south

Dismissed by the chief constable as vandals’ pranks

A year after the girl had turned a proper sixteen

Stewart allowed it, and I married her

Do you know, I found I couldn’t bear

To have her in my bed

 


Calmacott’s Brother

Henry Calmacott as a boy, in cap and knit vest

Henry Calmacott
(six)

 

Spirits have been called, the way lies open

Waves of interruption, raucous shouts and song

First one cry is heard and then a chorus

Comes again, while the host’s eye resting

on Henry Calmacott, observes a warning sign

Thus bright of voice, to the guest he notes

‘The Celts. How many, who can say?

May be that gang the Romans called the Dobunni.

Pagans, all of ’em. We’ve had the university men…’

‘Yes. Mr. Woolsaver and his colleague…forget the name.

Minor nobleman from Rennes.’

The host lifts a quieting hand.

Henry Calmacott thinks of

The illnesses that kept him from enlisting

As his brother Michael had, and something he is feeling

Reminds him of a basin jabbed beneath his chin

‘Too sick to be sick,’ some orderly had chuckled, as

He’d sunk again

Now he feels too grieved to shed the tears

That he had seized his handkerchief to damp

But strangely bears a sorrowing sympathy

For Bernard Arthur, poor unhappy sod

‘Because, you know’—he speaks as though he’d spoken

‘Topped himself. That was ’23. In the greenhouse,

With his shotgun.’almacott’s Brother

 


Calmacott’s Brother
Calmacott's Brother

Henry Calmacott 
(seven)

 

She is a young woman still.

Thirty or thereabouts, I’d guess

And when I’d walked out with Bess, once

Or twice

Met her down the Ram’s

Took her to the picture show

Right enough in the head, those days. Jealous though.

Now they say, these many years

Has let the place fall down around her ears

Got Mother’s back up straightaway

Opening her drawers

And when she’d found the clipping, read:

‘Unfortunate Death in Somerset’

Said to Mother, ‘I know a secret about that.

Mathilda never wrote that note.’

 

A murmuring voice, a woman’s

Fills this silence, Henry’s words

Seem repeated in another tongue

Her offices draw from the Celts

A peal of exclamation

And feeling sighs of wonderment

‘Michael Calmacott,’ she says, ‘tell on.’

 

‘Two things don’t coincide alone.

They might have found some traces of my bones.

If they had sought to look. But why

Should Mr. Atkins have thought it?

A trio of soldiers hares off from a nursing home

A man, that night, is stabbed outside the town

A motor car turns over on a curve

A girl breaks her neck

And fires light the hilltops

On Arthur’s farm the pigeon cote goes next.’

 


Calmacott’s Brother

The guest with sympathetic face

Unfortunate Death
(eight)

 

Coincidence.

‘Good you’re home in time, Arthur. You’ll have a guest for lunch.’

I heard a smile in her voice…she would not have smiled

Knowing I was home. I could hear their talk, although the

Door was closed. Stewart had followed on my heels, fretting.

‘Goddamn you!’ He’d near trod on me. And he was carrying

it. That rage I’d felt was for Stewart.

When I’d snatched the hayfork from his hand.

 

Yes, I’d only gasped a little. I’d been careful of the blood.

The poor young man. I’d only knelt beside him where he fell.

I do recall I cried. I do recall I moaned and couldn’t stop.

I can’t think I’d been making such a noise.

Oh, Arthur, you were cold.

 

I was not. Myself. You see, Calmacott, how she—

Bessie…had that reckless prodding habit

An amoral will to be, at this moment

At this moment

Miring in excitement

—how she taunted. Though of course

The note was in her own hand.

 

‘Yes, if Bess,’ Henry says, ‘had been born a boy

By fifteen, she’d have gone into the navy. Been a nob

She’d have ridden to the hounds. Dash, is what

They call it. There, you have circumstance, as well.’

 

And what if I had had a little room, a bed

Some Chelsea street where rents are not too dear

And the Mrs. in my name might be enough

For a decent place, serving at a tea room

I know you couldn’t often come across

But I’d have welcomed you, visiting, and if you’d asked

Can you forgive me…Mathilda

I would say, Arthur I do

 


Calmacott’s Brother

Celtic daughter in sheepskin with knotted silver clasp

Let Them Go
(nine)

 

‘How does your mother do?’

Henry’s mind’s eye flashes him a slender shaft

Of sun, a halo of blue sky, some other sense raises

With a vividness that flicks him on the raw

A smell of pipe tobacco and horse stall

Old Atkins, retired from the force, still calls

‘Of course, I can’t be easy, altogether…Barnstow’s story

Was at the time, hardly satisfactory.’

Why this?

Why smoke and autumn leaves

Numb toes inside his sodden boots and the touch

Of his brother’s hand?

‘It’s no use hanging on to things, is it?’

‘No, Michael…no, it’s not. You ask…how’s our mum? She’s well.

I’ll tell her you’re the same.’

Henry lifts his head, so wrenched at length

He wipes his face dry with a vulgar sleeve

The guest, in willful ignorance

Watches only the host

Who, using a paper knife, is prying marbles free

‘I have a steel-head mallet.’ This, he lifts to show.

‘Will you do the honours,

Henry Calmacott?’

Shuffling to the fire he sees…here are three—

Gaily coloured, red and blue

One yellow

Lodged in crevices of stone, before the hearth

And if I smash them, sir, that ends their prisonment on earth?

 

 


 

 

Continue to Wake

 

 

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