Raine Geoghegan – Two poems

MAKING THE VARDOS
im Alfie Lane, my grandfather.

Sitting on the doorstep

he picks up his churi,

makes the first cut into the oak,

the finest for small vardos,

he’s taken to this since moving into the ken,

he’s made one for two of his children,

now he’s on the third.

The jook watches him as he carves the door,

he thinks of painting it red,

Mary’s best colour.

He works quietly,

dropping the shavings into a bowl.

He remembers making the pegs,

chinning the koshtie’s, they called it

when he was on the drom.

They had always sold well,

the rackleys used to say he was the best

peg maker in all of Kent,

he didn’t like the fuss

but he was proud of what he did.

His dad taught him the craft,

how to grind the tips until they were sharp,

how to make the handle level so it fitted snug in the hand,

never scolding him if he got it wrong.

He rubs the tiny door down with sandpaper,

holds it up to the light,

brushes his fingers across it,

Smooth as a pebble, eh Butch?’

The jook barks.

Alfie stops.

He yawns, the dog yawns.

‘I’m tired, let’s jell t’woodrus boy.’

Tomorrow he’ll paint the door,

when it dries he’ll stencil on the drabo’s,

all in keeping.

‘These little vardos are all we got now, eh Butch?’

Vardos – gypsy wagons; Ken – house; Churi – peg knife;  Jook – dog;  Chinnin the koshtie’s – making the pegs; Rackleys – women. Romany chal – Romany man;  Jell t’woodrus – get to bed; Drabo’s – good luck charms/symbols. 

MUMPLEYS

sleepin’ under trees or in bender ‘uts, can’t afford a vardo, some call us mumpleys, we’re the gypsies that ‘ide in the shadows, we don’t know anythin,’we ‘ave to chore now and then, ‘ow else do we get by?

me sister goes barefoot, her chockas wore right down, until the soles were flappin’ when she walked, one day she tripped up, fell flat on ‘er face.

‘throw those chockas away ryala, there’s nuthin’ wrong wiv goin’ barefoot, the earth is warm and I’ll lend yer me socks.’

we laughed and then dug an ‘ole, buried ‘er chockas deep in the earth, that night we ‘ad dandelion broth and the tastiest of bread, it ‘ad been thrown out by the farmer’s wife. we toasted it over the yog.

the next day we went out callin’, got some kushti ‘ole togs then sold ‘em fer a few bob, we bought fish’n’chips, proper grub. we sat on a bench pookerin’ about our ‘ole dad, he used to sell scrap iron from an ‘andcart, made is livin’ from it. he ‘ad a stammer, yer couldn’t understand much of what ‘ee was sayin’ ‘alf the time. ‘ee’d play the mouth organ at night and ‘ee always cooked us tatti-tatties and gave us apples.

Mumpleys – not quite a true Gypsy but not a Gadje, living on the road;   Vardo – gypsy wagon; Chore – steal;  Chockas – shoes;  Calling – selling; Pookering – speaking; tatti – tatties – baked potatoes. 

About the contributor

Raine Geoghegan, MA is a poet of Romany descent living in the Malvern Hills in the UK. She is a Forward prize, Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net 2018 nominee. Her work has been published internationally, her two pamphlets are published by Hedgehog Press.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. Completely in love. Surprised. Entering another planet. When I was a kid I saw gipsy wagons once and wanted to live in a painted wagon. The had come from a different world. Thank you.

    • Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment Rose. Sometimes I do think that myself and my family come from another world. We are a strange and lively lot but I wouldn’t want it any other way. Kushti Bokt (Good Luck) keep well. Raine X

  2. Thank you kindly Tamara – I wanted to write about mumpleys for a while now. They really were very much in the shadows, I believe another name for them was ‘hedgemumpers’ they weren’t true Gypsies but neither were they true gadjas (non Roma) I have grown fond of them since I began writing about them. Blessings, kom ta bokt (love and luck) Raine

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