A First

In retrospect, a strange
suggestion, to agree
to meet behind the train
station in the half-light
of dusk, but a resort
made for solitude. Tucked
behind a concrete wall,
they stand opposite
and kiss with eyes shut.
It is clumsy. Teeth knock
like hard pearls, their dry
awkward lips slightly stick,
but it is a first kiss,
the most important,
when the distant fuss of
trains and traffic are muted
and the heart hammers
with young, artless love.

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At The Car Boot Sale

The year the mud had dried and the grass was full and grown
we drove out to the field, opened our car boots,
set up the tables and laid out the things we no longer wanted.

Animal-shaped salt shakers, dented biscuit tins, wobbly footstools,
books bound in weathered leather, silver gravy boats, cloudy decanters,
bags of jumping jacks and army men, all priced in pencil on sticky, white labels.

And I wonder what that plate meant to you when the couple picked it up,
steered in it their hands, admiring the patterns, eyeing the base
for cracks, talking to themselves and digging their pockets for change.

You were a proper seller before, convincing those boys
to buy the horror films for a real scare, demonstrating the blender
for the older man. But for this treasure, you held your breath.

I saw it all in your silence, how the plate once served breakfast
for chattering children you tried to calm and you remembered
laying out the eggs and toast and beans upon it,

how it once carried a rich lamington, domed by a glass bowl,
that you whizzed about in your hands pretending a UFO
as you brought it to the county fair proud and pleased,

and how it once held grapes, sliced peaches and pears you placed beside
the brass balls of an old bed as you plumped the pillows and spoon-fed
a feverish loved one his favourite comfort steak and kidney pie.

What relief when the plate returned to the table.
As the couple walked away, you carefully stowed it in the front of your car.
You weren’t quite set on selling those memories.
No, not yet.

Eggs

Her room was last on the left.
I passed closed doors, a dozen or so,
before I got to hers – except one,
which was open, and light spilled
into the corridor. In a single stride
I crossed and glanced a life.
An old man hunched over a cooker,
a fried egg drooped on his spatula,
the smell of burning toast and cigars.
This life, in the pocket of a building,
has sewn itself into my mind,
and I spend hours picking at the seams.
I do not know if the boy, the small boy
who was sat alone at the table –
ever got his eggs.

Careful

Careful – these words
must be coaxed.
A wild horse, shy, curious.

Nurture them, in syllable
and sound, let them
find place, punctuation,

or else, they startle,
and flee to fields, mountainside.
Their prints lost in snow and loam.

The Forager

Chanterelles, truffles, Trompe de Mort,
all packed tight in the boot of his car,
dusted with soil, sweet smelling and rich.
Evidence of his absence.

He is tired, but he marvels the load.
“Forager’s finest,” he says. True.
Those fleshy gills, golden stems,
caps like parasols rippled by wind.

A prize haul of unknown hours
hunting alone through forests,
prying leaves, digging and sleeping
amidst the milk-caps and brackets.

But there’s never a word of his labour.
I still don’t know his name. All I know
of the forager is that the pale band of skin
on his finger darkens with dirt and time.

Remember, Remember

A match flared in the dark. Then another.
Whispers of flame scurried the base
and built to a roar of full-bodied heat.

Piled were planks, chairs, tables; a pew
skewered through. Broken branches
protruded the heap like fingers reaching.

This was the stuff of life. Furniture to fill
a house, wood to build a shed, burning. Soon,
you couldn’t tell a thing from that blackened mass.

And the blaze had no preference, consumed
the lot with no regard, flushed out fireflies
that bloomed and expired into the night.

Our combined hush carried to the morning.
The cling of woodsmoke laid deep in our coats,
our hats, our skin. The ashes we’d slept in.

The Arborist

The arboretum hosts a boney crew.
Naturally, it’s autumn, winter closing,

but I’ve kept them healthy, even
the saplings. My little thoughts to tend.

Give it twenty years. I’ll have them tall,
strong, with each a bough thick and solid.

That is, if I resist this peculiar lust,
to drive a spade to the bedding, sever

the roots, tear them out, and lay
them on the lawn for all to see.

I’ll compromise: an arborist, one who
carries a blunt axe and a thirst for lumber.