Return from a foreign field
When I came home again, your face was scarcely changed.
And yet, I could not reach it, even with a kiss –
didn’t know how to any more
though my lips moved and I spoke your name.
Here were floor, walls, chairs, bed,
that old blue vase, safe on its shelf –
our precious things, all just the same;
the children looking up, waiting –
for me, to look at them, as once I did in that kind way
as if they, and everything they saw and said
were really all there was.
But I had lost – forgotten – how to be
here; how to belong; hopes taken over
by stronger truths: the terror
of a falling bomb; the sudden cries –
the long cold nights without you.
Yet now, the you I had seems gone.
You press your searching warmth into my skin
but I see past you
to that dark blue vase – its smooth form
an illusion, for I know
how it must shatter, its tiny pieces
flying forever in my head.
Now I turn back to you
and in your eyes see only
those other eyes, and what they said
with loving wordless look at last
even as their last light fled.
An angel got lost
On its way back to heaven.
There it was, sat on our roof
Crying: a slow, shivering sound
Like harps drowning.
So we let it in.
All white it stood – soft marble
And fluttering translucent wings,
Its toes bluish on the cold kitchen floor.
It asked for honey and cream,
Then told us it had been sent down to guide some infant,
Already tired of life,
Into the hands of waiting great-aunts and uncles,
Grandmothers, far-distant cousins. So many hands… And then
The little creature looked up at us
With eyes of sky-blue,
Its face round as a new moon.
And a tear like a shooting star
Sped over that smooth alabaster cheek.
The dimensions that lead up to heaven
Are dying, it said.
Earth is breaking away, falling into itself,
The sky cannot hold it
So heavy the world is now,
A black-hole of sin. We nodded,
Knowing that weight within us.
So we made a little tea
And sang some songs together. When it died,
We took it to the garden and found a home for it
Beneath the apple trees.
How rosy and round the fruit were that year,
Shining a little by night, like a skyful of comets.
One bite each we had, but so strong was the taste
The rest went to the birds,
Who sang the red twilight through
As though the dark would never come.
In Praise of Pudding
O Pudding, Pudding, rich and round !
Custards and Sauces ! Silver Spoons !
And Baked Apples, and pastries all a-crumble-o !
The sun sinks down in the December sky,
And snorings tremble from beside the fire.
The dog looks up with an imploring eye –
What is this marvel, this solemn, secret bliss
Of humankind ? All wreathed in steam !
O brown-skinned, creamy, pulpy rice !
And raspberry tartlets, sugared a-lightly-o.
Ye generous jellies ! We are quite overcome
By your serenades of scent, your gay parade
Of form and hue – bless-ed as the flowers
Of Summer you are. O Patient Pudding ! Yes, so very true,
And waiting till the last – so sure of victr’y, you overwhelm
With kindly strike of taste and flavour. Slaves forever at your table,
We serve; you minister. O proud crusts, rising full; and yielding,
Warmly, as a matron’s flesh. Yet fair you are too,
And tender – as new life lying cool
Upon the palsied senses of our years.
Polite, personable and profound –
Ever you speak to us of inner joys.
The door swings closed now;
Guests are departed, content
And strolling ’neath the stars
As the first few flakes glitter into midnight –
Nature’s own sweet icing, dusting the frost-hard land. Indoors,
The perfumes of a gracious day
As of good things remembered.
O Pudding, Pudding, burning bright
In the stomach of the night!
What immortal hand or eye
Could bake thy peerless recipe?
Once there was a lady
Glowing and white.
She rode a fine pony,
She wore silken tresses,
She turned away princes.
She cast aside villains and
Brought hope to men’s hearts.
And the flocks of the faithful
Followed her light.
There once was a woman
Walked to work in the rain.
Changed a thousand soiled nappies
Rode down the hurricanes
Of her very best tears.
Kept a hold of her men
With frequent hot dinners
And a few lukewarm nights,
And she dreamt every day
Of the lady in white.
There once was an old dear
Rode mobility scooters,
Passed unseen in the high streets
Got fussed over by doctors,
Her substances drawn out
And poured into bottles
For the testing thereof.
Cuddled and coddled
By her kids (now grown-up)
She was fed, she was dressed,
Made to look at her best
Of a Sunday. Yes,
There once was a lady
Who rode a fine pony
Which she sold to her children
For a handful of love.
And she sang as she lay there
Of the days she’d made happen.
And the pain seeped away
As her mind rode away
With the lady in white
On the waves of her breath
So warm and so light.