Plaster walls creak in temperate weather,
bunches of lavender hang from the beams.
Hands have woven reeds to thatch,
turned willows to baskets, shored up grain
against the river, tamed the myth of storms.
At the door of the house, the spirits of cats
watch over: arrivals of friends, departures of children.
Whoever crosses the lintel will be guided,
by their acrobatic bones, liquid eyes, black tails
disappearing around stone corners
amongst a pilgrimage of shoes.
Outside, the garden slopes away,
above an orchard underground.
Trees buried in shell- grain, oaks preserved
in marshes where they fell, throw up circles
from roots reaching through fossils
to an inland sea that keeps all the drowned.
Loch keepers and Fen children sail in
caves and green tunnels, fish eyes painted
on their boats, with the ghosts of apple men
and their wives, swimming and fishing
to the world’s core.
Not so far to cast a silver net
reach out to touch the grain,
into all the caverns of the earth,
the palaces of trees: and keep them close.
The ash casts a broad shadow.
Flint and chalk shore up the yard,
moths blunder in across a threshold ringed with light.
*(Magical protection of East Anglian houses, included burying cat skeletons and old shoes in walls)
On Friday I see them coming back
just as the evening is beginning
and the streets are full of the rush for home.
Doors slam, and there are voices in the garden,
someone plays the piano slowly until late.
During the week the house sits vacant,
Old garden chairs left upturned
the water barrel seeping.
Nothing that will damage in the rain.
Late at night sometimes I think I hear a flute,
as if someone had stayed behind
unable to let go of the weather.
The gutters gurgle and drain. And
the gate is swinging.
They are putting something aside,
my neighbours, in this windswept town.
Our uncurtained windows are still lives,
plants and lampshades, a cracked flowerpot,
a candelabra burning.
At night the only sound is
the roar of motorbikes at midnight,
arcing into the next valley.
We keep our distance, and look up.
The spaces and the trees between us, greening.
(for my father)
His Journal might have read:
‘These copper beeches
I hold them in my mind.
I would like to
plant orchards where apple trees can grow’.
All his life in business.
Driving every morning to the office
For meetings in stuffy rooms.
Later I would see him,
Standing in the garden,
Trying to make sense.
As if there was a warmth,
He wanted to claim back,
That he never wished to name.
Much later he’d turn up
Briefcase tightly shut.
Sitting nervously in my cluttered room,
Amongst beads and candles,
We would make the polite conversation
Of passing through.
He left some flower paintings each detail carefully inked.
An old medal from the regiment.
And scratched records:
The Duke and Jelly Roll,
Bringing brash streets
Into an evening room.
Each tune holding
An understanding that
Like a pause in music,
Or sequences in jazz,
Absence can be
The quiet distance for reflection
Before the next phrase.
What would I keep, from now, for then?
Some black velvet lycra,
a pair of shoes from Red or Dead,
some notes on Deconstruction,
James Taylor and Joni Mitchell on CD.
My heirlooms a collection of kitsch, for our
children’s grandchildren to discover
in virtual cupboards which gather no dust.
They may note an absence of gardens.
A fascination with surface. Textures,
Functional and prosaic,
As if what was had never been.
In the bottom of the box
Our letters will be faded
And the hidden photographs
Melted to chrome yellow.
We’ll be gone. Back to bones.
An old manuscript of coloured image,
unreliable as anecdote, indecipherable as runes.
What was outside the frame,
Dissolved to sepia and salt.
And they might guess:
Possible city dwellers, who lived by water.
Collectors of flat silver squares,
In the last years of whale music,
at the time of the dissolution of the tribes.
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