The door wept.
Through its cracks, light seeped and splintered,
yellowing the wood, scattering shadows
that mocked the dark.
The door heard everything.
When she was young,
each whispered secret
wound a new whorl:
her life absorbed and engrained
in the silent oak.
The door had been her fortress.
By day a shield,
By night an angel
breathing in the day
she wanted to forget.
Tonight, the door
cursed its very hinges.
It had let him in.
Sisyphus gives in
Sore was he and raw palmed
as at the stone once more he heaved,
broken-backed, sodden, spent.
Sullen that stone, and strangely smooth
from ceaseless circus to-and-fro,
dead-weighted, heartless, dumb.
Through sun and frost he inched and nudged
up and up the un-giving earth,
cursing grooves slicked smooth with mud,
hackles of moongrass that whipped his shins,
the showers of sleet freezing his cheeks and
the chafing and drubbing of bone on stone.
Reluctant broke the dawn, grey lit and
seeping through a stubborn night,
wan-faced, feeble, mute.
And with the dawn the peak again,
his enemy friend in the clouds,
impervious, impious, cold.
One step before that peak he stopped,
poising his load at the mountain’s lip.
A swift sidestep and the stone held still.
So he ran, sprang into cloud, eyes white and wide,
ears giddy with the din of wind and
the crying, no, laughing of distant gods.
You say that, but when I’m gone
the coat-hook will be a dull question mark
drilled obstinately in the door,
and the sticky coffee circles empty brackets,
you’ll find that scratched CD under the seat:
the dot, dot, dot of Joni in her Yellow Taxi,
braking and starting, braking and starting…
Yes, the cushions will remain plumped and proud,
the whiskey prude and untouched,
your wooden spoons ranked in height,
Von Trapps standing stiffly to attention,
whilst the tiles are flossed
and the taps like aristocratic noses,
swabbed with silk and drip–free.
Then, in the backyard of the wardrobe
overgrown with shadow:
my stale Aran jumper, hibernating, exhaling
all the while the brine and spume
of our lost Orkney weekend,
of laughs wreathed in sulphur seaweed
and crab-shell splinters in your toe.
Out of spite
he grew a virile tuft
on the crown of his skull,
shaving the rest to a gleaming pate:
a reverse tonsure,
a cackle at God.
With a sudden fervour
he stripped the stripped floorboards,
shearing the gleaming timber back
and back until his bare feet
tingled against the shingle
of damp earth and mould below.
It smelt of a fresh forest grave.
Standing in the sitting room felt good,
grime between his toes.
And around the period hearth
he grew cold grey mushrooms,
a reminder of his lungs
and fresh decay.
Outside was easy:
instead of hanging baskets
he noosed the peonies
in blistering thick rope
and watched their pale pink
wither to a blood-red.
He fed prize weeds –
dwarf’s spurge, fat-hen and charlock –
their stems now hairy forearms,
seedpods bulging like the
balls of a Doberman, and
sandpaper leaves choking the roses
with giant, jagged shade.
These days he is more moderate.
He whistles at builders who whistle,
pats the owner not the dog,
celebrates his forty-ninth with
a massive tango for one,
stock still whilst the beats and bass
seethe and rage in his ribs.
Today, he’ll laugh at the cancer, somehow.
Tomorrow, ‘nil by mouth’, he’ll drink milk
as hungry as a new-born.
I hear your syllables from afar,
bowed dolce on pig-gut strings.
Up front they are Turkish Delight,
gluey and shorn from a slab,
purple pink, crystalline.
How these sweetmeats stick.
I will pick them with a tong,
arm stiff and outstretched,
and spit them into a puddle,
(curb-grit and yesterday’s grime).
I shall watch their rainbow grease
spread and thin in the afternoon sun –
leaving a purple pink scum,
a foam-bath for crows.