The Wheel Bed

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Tyring Platform or Wheel Bed

The Wheel Bed

The wood-burn tang remains,
purpose chosen
elm, oak and ash,
a pungent memory
burnt into my history;
childhood re-visited.

Metal rim fired,
it’s molten circle
beaten into flaky orange ring,
before,
from the flaming furnace, 
tongs at arms’ length, 
cast iron wrought and shaped, 
the new cart wheel
boldly borne
to the fitting-bed, 
its iron collar
to be burnt into place.

 
Then, 
ice cold water on fiery iron
sizzles, 
splash and spurt, 
heat relayed and remembered, 
felt and smelt, 
rooted in my molten memories.

Cold contracted, 
cooled into the tightest of fits, 
road ready, 
task worthy, 
winter prepared
and good to go. 

Another hole in the farmer’s pocket;
Another meal for the smith’s family;
Another tick of my life’s clock.

The vital wheels of forever – 
wood, iron, fire, water,
turning, as cogs
dependent each on each,
as carter, wheelwright, smith, farmer, 
primitive, elemental, 
part of my story
… and of me.

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Those who are familiar with my previous writing may recall my upbringing as the son of the village blacksmith. As such, I often watched my father, with hammer on anvil, create both large and small tyres of heated iron. I would look on in awe as, on a huge shaped ring of thick iron, the wheel-bed or platform, the iron tyre would be burned on to the wooden rim of a cartwheel, allowing the contraction of the iron on cooling to bind the wheel to the wood of the wheelwright’s frame.  Few such iron-wheeled carts remain in use.

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Fire, Forge and Furnace

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‘The Smith’: Illus.from’The Book Of English Trades’, Museum of English Ryral Life, Reading University.

FIRE, FORGE & FURNACE

It began with the furnace
When limping Hephaestus
tamed his volcanic forge,
before Prometheus
poached fire,
and brought to mankind,
his creation,
those skills of
 inspired artistry
 in metal and the arts,
for which he suffered
until, released, liver-less,
 from his eagle-torn fate

So, his legacy,
passed on to the smith,
farrier, blacksmith, metalworker,
a noble calling
worthy trade
artist in iron
his skill
portrayed in metal
wrought within the fire
of Vulcan’s heart

Bent over the anvil
he finds his future
his art is in iron
his heart lies there too
the kiln his spirit
the anvil his easel
tongs his palette knife
his hammer his brush

Rendering and wrenching
forging
forcing his will
on that malleable metal
moulding with skill
stroking the steel
forming shape
to match imagination
to meet a need
create a masterwork
from his mind’s ferment

The furnace,
bellowed into life,
bright burning coals
in heat and fusion
throw shadows all around
as if their flickering flames
are desperate to escape
and return
to the place of their birth –
the fiery inferno
in Vulcan’s heart.

Hephaestus

Hephaestus

 

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