In the Post
In the middle of a batch of junk
one with her writing, these days
the postmark uninformative…
It might be precious. The smaller
kitchen knife opens it, and I’ll keep
the envelope because it’s part of her.
The contents are a jade green —
twice-folded half of a torn A4,
spelling out NO MORE WORDS.
Well at least I didn’t this time have
to pay for the lack of a stamp. — I’m sorry?
— Yes. I’ll still keep the envelope.
“But sir, this is the time to celebrate.”
“No.” — I decline the Santa hat proffered me
By the waiter, and declare instead: “Champagne
For the lady alone in the corner, if
She will accept it.” Thinking, “She can’t be driving.”
“You’ll have to guide me for the final stretch,”
I tell her. “Oh, it’s no problem now,”
She assures me as we leave the motorway,
“Just follow the red signs.” In the twisting dark,
Through snow and trees and shadows I spin her wheel,
And, “Do you live alone?” I ask her softly.
“If Strindberg hasn’t been fed, I do tonight.”
A last bend, a brief avenue, we stop.
I switch off. A real owl hoots somewhere,
Or a taped owl plays in the nearby wood.
“Oh Strindy! Come on, then.” The Burmese cat
Wails on the mudguard of this replica,
And is fended off gently by her opening door.
We cut to the kitchen where the genius animal
Is made replete, then some ominous echoes
Follow our feet across a mosaic floor
To a room replete with incunabula
From God knows where, the only lamps are low.
As a heavy clock hand shifts towards the hour,
The champagne kicks in on my monthly statement.
Should I play the direct guy I should like to be?
I sit down opposite her uncertain
As to my or her motives. Turning she prises
A Malory from a convenient shelf, and smiles,
And opens it and takes out…[To be decided.]
Are Etceteras No Things?
Yes, usually. Except — some of Things you don’t remember in detail, but need to allow for, my include Very Important Things you unconsciously preferred to leave out.
They may have trailed away from your memory like the Smoke along the landscape disappeared from where the Lovers on the hillside might have seen it when they raised themselves from the grass. They wanted to see the Train, but by then even the smoke from its engine had resigned itself to the Air over the fields.
Or like protesting faces admitted to an imperial courtyard as a deputation, only to have the Great Door closed on them and become, as they turn away, like any other faces in the crowd of Etceteras passing randomly in the street.
Or think of a list of somebody’s Lovers, too long to recite even in sworn confidence to a patient friend. Ending with people too far-off to be remembered apart from the quaintness of the clothing they removed. But certainly once, yes, Very Important.
And how, out of that, at the tail-end of a year, in its last Etcetera days, there could return to somebody a blurred figure walking towards them who, in the last ten yards, is clearly focused once again. Who places a hand on an arm and draws close saying, “It Was Meant To Be Like This.”
Musician (for Jim Burns)
We knew he was coming down the hill from the sound
Of the Salon Orchestra or the Savoy Orpheans
Wound up to play for three minutes, then
Turned over for a second screeched melody,
The needle changed from a tiny box of the same.
We saw the sadness of the trolley pushed on
To its next port of earshot, and braked again with a wad
Of cardboard under the wheels, and new doors opening
Along the road for more of us to come out
With pennies begged from our mothers, who didn’t
Want to encourage this tall ancient man
In the bowler hat and ageless dark grey coat,
And his old horn gramophone with the bag of sweets
On the lower shelf, which is why we asked for pennies.
The other queer thing was, he never spoke.