An unfinished housewarming gift.
The car was loaded and my bags contained
a bottle of champagne, by then
turned vintage or vinegar; long it was saved for a
future occasion, unknown before, but
come close, overdue.
I conceived of a toast to your new house,
and another to you and your daughters.
The fruit never falls far from the tree.
They grow straight and true,
make you proud.
Turning the key and starting the engine,
the radio hails me with
Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto no. 2,
as if its transistors knew you to
be my destination.
The mobile phone awakens.
There is a message from you, about
soldiering on through a very bad cough.
We should forgo eating out to keep you warm
in your house.
The champagne no longer seems so appropriate.
Chilled fizz not ideal for respiratory disorder.
Perhaps a poem might serve as congratulatory substitute,
so I wrote this, in stages,
on the way.
I imagined this poem as a latter-day Rape of the Lock,
a story of fantastic spirits surrounding you.
That proved too elusive, so I dwelled on your house,
what a house must be like to be
considered your home.
In your house, the topsy-turvy dolls do cartwheels
over and over. Pin cushions grow
legs and snouts, becoming mobile and porcupine,
when no-one is looking. I should be
careful when sitting.
It was raining, I was hungry.
I stopped for a rest at the town where we grew,
then shopped for a celebratory offering,
down those renewed arcades where we walked
and had sheltered.
I searched for Rachmaninov,
but the first shop was vacant
and the goth club was gone without trace.
You used to go there and I think
I did once.
Jumbo Records had persisted, with the
very same sign still calling to gig attendees.
They had no Rachmaninov, nor did HMV,
so I bought Brief Encounter
on DVD instead.
Regarding your ailment, I surmised that some port
was the best choice to loosen and comfort.
Combined it with stilton, and chocolate truffles,
and a fresh bottle of bubbly in case
you miraculously mended.
Queuing at M&S, the lady ahead rued
that the Â£10 champagne had sold out.
I was surprised I had forgot that strangers will
amiably converse in the world
of our origin.
To the Corn Exchange I circled, which had
turned source of nick nacks and bric-a-brac.
There I bought a basket to carry your domestic votives.
You were sure to like it because it was old
and still useful.
I never finished this poem, first feeling it rotten,
but after my visit, whilst on a train to a plane to
very far away, I looked more fondly upon it,
so did my best to rework
and restore it.
I coughed a lot on that train.
Maybe something you shared.
Though unwelcome, at least I speculated I was
smuggling away something in me that had once
been in you.
Despite what they say, it is a great big world.
If lost, you might never be found.
Though I mislay myself from time to time,
next time, I will know the way
to your house.
Being November, it was night and felt late
when I finally arrived at yours.
Though the house was empty, eyes open but dark,
I conceived of it being
filled with you.
When you got home, you tended your daughters,
and scolded me for not reading your blog.
We talked and I persuaded you to imbibe some port,
whilst you sewed with
your busy hands.
The next day, you bristled at the implication
that you might not know of AC Grayling.
You cake-baked and showed me the card you made for your mum
using a technique that was a
forebear of photography.
We went hunting for your mother’s birthday bestowal.
Returning victorious, I pushed your littlest’s buggy uphill
until we got to a shop where you retrieved a chair you
left there five years ago, making me
carry it home.
The pleasure of being within your house
was prematurely spoiled by knowing I would not stay longer.
I consoled myself that I would be back and this poem,
interrupted the meanwhile, cannot
end before then.