From lanes, hollows, combes, hams – they emerge –
big, bulky, ambling men with weather-beaten faces,
padded checked-shirts, ‘high-vis’ jackets, great hams of calloused hands.
They queue for coffee and pies, gather in earnest, affable groups;
shelter in ones or twos beneath broad umbrellas, tramp and squelch
through the reddening mud oozing from the green field.
One of their number has died – a friend, neighbour, someone
to whom they took ailing machines for loving repair. Gone,
his pride and joy now falling under the autioneer’s gavel.
Boxes of brakes, light bulbs, crates of axles, spoked wheels, tyres;
ancient, trolleyed water-cooled engines from Wisconsin,
Cowley and Birmingham. A Wilys Jeep, cramped, almost film-starred
A mouldering Bentley, a rusted Daimler, mossed and mottled
Morrises, cranks and gear-boxes, cylinder heads, eccentric
motor-bikes and enamelled Capstan adverts.
His life reduced to five-hundred lots. They’re here not to bid
but to say farewell. Among the bargain-hunters and collectors,
the ruddy, bearded, faces gather for this eccentric’s wake.
He loved the craft, the beauty, the sheer inventivenes of
machines in all their variety, their shape and excitement.
The numbered piles, no longer lots but remembrances:
iron bouquets of tenderness. These men, neither hard nor soft;
who plant and harvest - still - by soil, wind and rain with
machines they love and tend until they rust back to the red earth.