“All I see is fire — this room
and that wall of books.
The whole building, all on fire.”
I could see that she meant it,
there was a frightening certainty
in her eyes. A conviction
But there was more
She spoke in a way
that would make me remember
Fast forward three years
and a new location:
a radio was blaring.
The name on a news bulletin
made me flinch, go cold
with the dreadful details,
yet somehow half suspected,
in shocking anticipation.
I could see her, so clear,
the way she was looking.
And now, how could I forget?
The hole where a fire used to be
has stared at us for fifteen years,
begging to be filled.
We know we’ve put it off too long,
put up with the inconvenience
and balking at the cost,
hating the insecurity of change
even if it might be for the better.
And then there’s the fledglings
flapping down the chimney each cruel May,
hopping around wide-eyed in darkness,
to be finally coaxed out of injury
through deftly placed curtains,
framing the clean glass of open windows,
an escape into the harsh light.
Remember the circa ’73 newspapers
we found stuffed up the chimney?
Those warm smells of old print and soot,
eyebrows raised at garish red mastheads,
the uneven letterpress lines
telling innocent stories of slower days.
And the Eagles were on the BBC.
For too long we’ve ignored
the unsettling sounds
of western borne gales
raising roof tiles like rattles of doom,
making us state more firmly each year
that something must definitely,
must finally—be done.
But still we continue to shiver
and rue that darn hole
where heat and heart should be.
Another twelve months nearly done, then.
Right now we’ve settled on fresh flowers
to see the winter out, knowing nothing
will ever quite conceal the truth
The morning is like copper,
a veiled threat in the sky.
We find ourselves among
patches of green poking through
a dusting of snow, scents of
woodsmoke hanging in the air.
I watch your smile break as
a blackbird alights on a bare branch,
a morsel of bread in his beak.
I shiver, adjust my coat
to find the ruff strangely
around my neck. You turn
round to see what troubles me,
your dark mantle twirling behind,
the lightness of your collar setting off
that burning gleam in your eyes,
windows on some other world.
We saunter through a sleeping garden,
hints of the dead season clinging
to brittle bushes like a bitter denial.
Standing in front of me, your soft
words are scarcely understood,
yet inwardly known. Your laugh
sends out clouds which resolve
to a gentle cough, gloved fingers
touching your chest. Without a word,
I usher you inside towards the fire
which greets us with soothing heat.
We shall warm our toes together
in its fading glow