The pastel shells fan out and gleam
in heaps and jazz-streaked whorls
purple and cream and frou-frou frilled
azure and ivory cornucopias
three-cornered dolly mixture packets of my youth
a message from the Caribbean
picked from a cooling beach
beneath a red-streaked sky.
I shuffle the shells, hold up to English Light
am paid in shining colours
as once explorers were by greeting innocents.
Trapped sand trickles to the floor.
There is a feeling of relaxation
of getting down to the nitty gritty of life
as darkness settles on the bookshelves.
There's a whisper, a breath
as Grisham calls out to Chandler
and asks him how Marlowe is,
after this long time.
David Lodge says "Hi!"
to Virginia Woolf, who sticks her nose in the air
and sniffs, pretending not to hear.
Page speaks to turning page,
Bernard Shaw arguing sparkily with Rousseau,
and George Eliot agreeing warmly with Colette.
And arguments become philosophical discussions,
uninterrupted by page rustling readers,
who do tend to delay the measured exchange of opinion
But as light creeps in, finger by finger,
covers pull together their splayed leaves
and stand upright, ready to take the stage
at the opening of doors...
While all this time the computers have awaited their turn
only occasionally putting in a word of agreement
only speaking when spoken to.
Even now, the sense of that time remains,
sharper than the pictures
coffined in dark album leaves,
or on these walls,
locked behind cold glass.
Even now, a phrase, a note of music,
conjures up a breath of laughter,
a touch, a greeting hand.
Any unplanned minute can push ajar the door,
recreate the world of then when everything was possible.
Even now, thoughts gathered
in rooms young with hope and argument
still linger on, specks of truth
gleaming through the weary patina
of use and habitude.
Such moments cannot be mine alone.
Surely across time and continents,
others once familiar as bread
must also pause, and for a heartbeat
stand, arrested in their journey...
Often the light on those slanting windows
was the first thing we saw
as we came grinding up the hill
in that old Austin Seven
Those scrambled streaks of red and yellow sunset
was your signal to check the greenhouse,
bundling from the car,
making sure the heating was OK
and that fool boy hadn't left the door ajar again.
You had no eye for roses, sweet peas, or scarlet salvas
those splodges of colour in mother's flower beds.
Food was the thing. Seeds under glass to plant out,
bring on, and sell, the season's marrows, spuds, tomatoes.
Such industry, such backbreaking endless toil,
plus forty hours a week down at the foundry.
No wonder you died young,
not noticing the beauty of the day.
all poems featured on this site remains with the