My Mother’s Album
In her best frock, posed grinning
by an improbable plant; her grandmother
when studio portraits were a novelty.
Turn the page: thin legs by the sea
caught by cameras that were now their own,
and a week at the seaside was a novelty.
At the back, the postcard collection;
sepia, soldiers singing about home –
‘There’s a long, long, trail awinding’.
No more pages. No ‘land of my dreams’
as the song promised, but the slump and a war
that brought its own shattering novelties.
Birds are flocking,
Doors are locking,
Autumn’s knocking once again.
Seeds are podding,
Workers plodding from the train.
Skies are frowning,
Leaves are browning,
Hats are crowning, coats are on.
Days are cooling,
Rains are pooling,
Kids are schooling –
Shoals of migrating sea diamonds
searching for the promised sea:
relishing the openscope of melting icebergs,
tantalising land artists on the Riviera.
gem gypsies of the wash –
travelling wide, travelling free,
travelling light, travelling me.
The Pulse at your neck is a caged bird
That has no way to sing.
And hardly perceptible now
The movement of your lips.
Yet you attempt a smile
That once was all the world
For one who tentatively followed you
Into a harvest field of wheat.
Ten past twelve, the phone kept ringing,
“We must catch up”, that’s what she said.
Half-asleep, I agreed to meet her.
Perhaps the past wasn’t really dead.
Then again, I began to wonder,
There had been two husbands in between.
Would I have to listen to the shortcomings
Of two men I had never seen?
I took camphor balls from an old tuxedo,
Polished black shoes until they gleamed,
Arrived at seven in the hotel foyer.
Years fell away, or so it seemed.
She swayed a little walking towards me,
No air-kissing, but a sexy hug.
Tinkling laughter and a smell of brandy,
Then almost tripped on a fireside rug.
A waiter said “Take care, señora.”
She said “Don’t be a bloody fool!”
A quick exchange of knowing glances,
He flapped his towel but kept his cool.
She said “John, it’s so nice to meet you…
You were nicer when you took a drink…
Our time together, so much laughter…
A hazy of booze, that’s what I think.
I sipped coffee, she drank branmdy,
Discomfort grew with her maudlin tears.
Decades ago, I loved this woman…
I cried inside for the wasted years.
To and fro and fro and to –
A dragonfly is zagging-by,
His body shiny-new.
Ready for the slaughter,
With his goggles on and paint-job dry –
For three years, underwater,
He has somehow learned to fly.
A fighter jet, a microlight,
With wings of cellophane –
Drunk yet nimble in his flight,
He circles round, and round again.
A regal blur, a day-glow streak,
Who never rests from his deploy –
But when he does, he’s plastic-sleek:
This summer’s latest toy.
I meet him, though, in hot July,
Some distance from the river bank.
So jealous in his patch of sky,
He watches for a rival’s flank –
But they won’t come, and neither will
The ladies that he’s longing for.
So here he is, patrolling still:
A soldier who’s misplaced his war
Aching for the consummation
Between luxurious smooth-pressed sheets,
Seething, roused in expectation,
Deepening wild delight comes, greets
Eternal love and cosmic bliss, so
Effervescent, sighing, squeezing
Genius for that one last kiss, though
Aitch-shaped, happy motifs teasing
Eiderdown with damask touch,
Jade and turquoise décor spell, how
Came the lady quite so much.
Elusive though betimes she seems,
Embraces in four-poster style,
End coyness, fling the door ajar,
Open wide to welcome virile
Peen – no, no, that goes too far! –
Cutely up-turned, says enough,
Ardent, burning perfumed oils and
Essences to do the stuff.
Teeny mattress, lumpy bunk,
You head for trouble – going for red hot
Venal acts in these beds or not
Double, you go all awry,
Exclaim in whingeing, childish fashion:
‘Why won’t you?’ Tartly, she’ll reply:
‘Zed-beds just don’t move a girl to passion.’