Decades pass and I still watch you cradle
that glass of brandy, your eyes wept out,
while I fail to comfort you
for love’s disrepair – the energy gone,
each no longer willing the other one on.
Around us the bar’s busy, and the station outside –
the past herding its nameless extras along,
authentic to the recalled frame
of our half-hidden scene within:
the expensive spirit, the waste and shame.
Far from then, you’ll live so different
and, as I’ll come to learn, better,
though I can’t lean across that tabletop
to tell you so, convincing your tears
or my ineffectual concern.
With nowhere to go I leave us there,
walk out to meet the rushing never-changed,
cross the concourse without looking back,
board the train we never took,
watch buildings pass, shadowed streets,
trees and fields opening beyond the glass
an undivided view of what – till then,
sitting in that station bar – we never knew
would leave little more of us than sits there still,
sad and unforgiving, not yet alone, not one again.
Each day passing this harbour of cattle and grass,
tall oak, thorn bush, the willow seed’s careless spume
where a boat lies, tilted, its cracked prow cutting the sky.
Does anyone, in bare July, slide its flaking keel
to the tiny pond behind – barely bigger than itself –
just to feel its reason?
Beneath its cover’s ragged canvas does rain gather,
wetting the wrong side?
Do the boards shrink, year on year, leaking like a shore
as the green around and the blue above ebb and flow?
Is there nothing it could do in water now but drown?
Nothing left for it
save this dry repetition – back and forth each day,
sliding from its pity like a tide?
‘Here we’re like sentries, watching anxiously,
guarding every locked-up hurt and secret.’
Staring out at shapeless haunting’s
unreflected years until,
one restful, mild afternoon – breezes ruffling
the heather, tethered beasts bleating
under a high, rainless grey, and nothing
on the pale horizon but faded hills infolding –
we turn to look at what we guard
and see how strange it has become.
As if whatever forces settled there long before
had limited neglect with their own wall,
their own border, from where – resentful
and mistrusting – forgotten faces stare.