Sport 18: Autumn 1997
A seriously empty afternoon—
silent, grey and empty.
Ahead, the long descent to Christmas,
that flat part of the year,
of fragrant needles and others' holidays.
Meanwhile, I watch a bleached old movie
in which a youthful Cameron Mitchell
encounters Martians in pastel space suits.
Or I draft a letter beginning,
‘The kitchen has a waste-disposal unit
and a wide central skylight.’
Or I doze and dream of a park
with lakes and weeping willows
and in which I seem to live, a prisoner.
Or I write a reminiscence beginning,
‘The starving were stood to attention;
children were hanged while a prison band
played Viennese waltzes.’
There are, of course, the children
as rowdy as dwarves,
a beloved wife whose hair
smells of graphite and sebum.
But you leave the sodden lawn
and burdened hollyhocks
to drive into the country.
You know a man who butchers cars
in a disused abattoir.
Poplars. Idle signals. Silent bells.
Leaving is like arriving.
The town ends in dandelions and silos;
the rain drifts in like seed.
My hands are always meeting
wet surfaces. Fronds spatter my scalp.
Across the river, rainbowed waterfalls
decant themselves through smoke.
The khaki policemen
are suspicious and smug.
What it is, you-a name?
What time it is, you-a watch?
I remember a salt breeze,
Ice-creams and heat and an old tearoom
With gingham tablecloths.
The houses have stayed put—repainted, repeopled.
And what of the new claddings
And glossy chocolate sills?
People die in houses.
Houses outlive their sober human guests.
How can he sit there enjoying the cricket
when there's death to think about?