Poetry

There, being Monday morning

''So why's he dead?', the reasonable
and polite enough query as children witness
from the distance, the body moved to a van
with white sides and frosted panes.

I was born, there’s no question of that.
I am in a dozen framed photos on this
table or that mantle. The clothes alter in each
picture, the face grows more attentive, you
can tell what school from the crest on my cap,
you can tell the girl beside me with the wind
in her veil like an angry invisible bee
is very happy that morning. Where? is another
of the many reasonable questions. ‘You’ve got
me there,’ I say. There is a copper beech
bigger than the house it broods over, I have
sometimes thought of it as caring, which
of course is my fantasising, a tree being simply
that. There, at another time, was a jetty,
a village with five syllables in its long
Welsh name. There were good and bad places.
There was sitting in a car watching children scamper
to another car, that was the saddest there;
and walking by a river, its broad dark current
bearing chunks of pumice from volcanoes,
a woman once said were like skulls in a hurry.
From a hundred examples I might give you
I select a handful at random, a sample
of what may occur on particular days.
I appreciate that addresses, next of kin,
official forms – they are yours to attend, I’m
sorry. The last witness, only this morning,
walking a spark of pure temperament
on an orange lead, her glancing back,
walking on, ‘getting on with life’. Is that
an answer, now I’m discovered? A considered
decision. Don’t let the children see.

Not that they spoke of it back then

She would tell him, ‘Put your shirt back on,’
this inarticulate man, slow as a child,
slower as a man, who picked flowers coming
home from school, who kept milk bottles
with bursts of orange shrapnelling membritia
on his window sill, that’s when he was a man.
She’d tell him that about covering himself
when he scythed the paddock smooth enough for bowls,
not giving a damn to be honest about it,
his kindness to animals, his gift with children,
the gentle stories he told that bored her –
she wanted roughness and hardness and if he wanted more
well fine, whatever it was. What she’d tell him
though, ‘The visitors are here in the driveway,’
and he’d know all right why she told him, his moving
gradually towards the shed, sweat gleaming
so much more than Christ’s on the parlour wall.

Griffith Review