Queenie Hennessy

Queenie Hennessy

It began as a knee-jerk thing
Unrequited love, another time
A final time
And leaving the job and the brewery
The audit drives to hoteliers
With Him
Upright, blue-eyed, decent
Gentle in humour and engagement.
But now simply to leave
The terrible hurt like a cleaver.
His one son David...gone
Brilliant, eccentric, troublesome
And troubled
Finally at the end of a rope.
And I had known David
Through various happenstances
Fascinated with him
As curious extension of his Father.
And never disclosed it
Neither those tell-tale symptoms
For possible rescue.
Too proud
Too frightened.

Yes, to leave, bus after bus
Nose pointed in a crazy
Otherwise direction
Til stopped by the North Sea
Sand and gulls
Somewhere near Newcastle-Upon-Tyne.
The beach house
Down from the Main Strip
And over from the golf course.
All wind-pierced, skeletal and rotting.
But project nevertheless
Distracting and defending.
Locals and vacationers
Curious and helpful
About this crazy spinster woman
Alone in the shambles cottage
Crabs and terns, waves and whispers
Her only apparent friends.
But then a miracle of sorts
Food gifts and flower baskets
Curtain materials and kitchenware
Strewn along the path up to the porch.
Two carpenters and floor boards
Other golfers trained at roofing and eaves.
The magical estate had begun
The transformation.
The visits of the well-intending
Those in turmoil who had heard
Of one lonely, reflective woman
Finding simple degrees of contentment
With which to share.
Odds and sods, rocks and plantings
Establishing the renowned sea garden
With pools, driftwood figures
Crabs, sandpipers and wildflowers.
Often reminding of acquaintances
And Him... Harold
Beneath sea skies
And the sounds of surf
Or winter's howling.

This piece is a thank-offering to British novelist Rachel Joyce and her twin books, the first about Harold (1) and his unlikely walking odyssey across Britain to a dying old friend and workmate; the second about Queenie (2) awaiting his arrival at the hospice with various broken friends and caretakers, printing memoirs and remembering a curious love.
  1. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Frye
  2. The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy


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