That day I walked around at lunchtime
with notes for a poem in one pocket
and a banana in the other,
the larches were so beautiful,
all fuzzy as if making their minds up
and a hawk circling above
a vole who had plans for the afternoon
and was on his way home
with the vole equivalent of groceries
and a piece of news he was dying
to impart, and if he never made it
he might be consoled that I put him,
all quivering and velvet-pawed,
into this poem before I ate the banana.
I wish I could remember its name,
that café in Reading in the sixties
that was open all night. Like home,
if you went there, they had to let you in.
Sometimes it was buzzing with students
high on caffeine, pot, alcohol, love.
You’d slide onto a bar stool
and nod, knowing they wouldn’t judge,
that they’d understand this need
you had to just keep going,
to join one day to the next
without a pause in between.
Sometimes you’d go there with a lover
after the halls’ curfew, after chucking out time
at The Three Tuns, after climbing over
the cemetery wall, reciting Reading Gaol
It seemed that if you slept
the summer of love would pass you by
and you’d lie alone in your single bed
till the dull sun peered through the curtains.
The letter that never arrives,
a snatch of song through an open door,
a delicacy that’s off the menu,
that warm fur coat in Harrods’ window,
the last bottle of red from the Mary Rose.
A bed – oh yes, a bed – the kind you sink into
with sheets so white, so new they creak.
A view of an ocean with sherbet waves,
an uncut first edition Keats locked inside a cabinet;
they wear white gloves to show you it.
Winter, though. Winter. Dead silence
in a forest of tippexed trees.
The first time I saw you naked
I said, ‘You’re so beautiful.
How can you possibly want me?’
and you replied that I was beautiful too
but I think you were just saying that.
I wasn’t. I meant it. I’d never seen anything
more lovely, never wanted anything so much
and you were mine for that one night.
I held the most beautiful thing I’d seen,
the thing I most wanted.
Not many people can say that.
Carole Bromley’s second collection, The Stonegate Devil, was published in October by Smith/Doorstop. She will be judging the York Literature Festival/YorkMix Poetry Competition which opened for entries on November 1st. Carole holds poetry surgeries in York for The Poetry Society (see the website for full details). Her website is at carolebromleypoetry.co.uk/