Far from the madding crowd you must build
a hideout—treehouse, hawthorn den,
village hovel across the sea, whatever.
Stash there a lifetime of loot, starting with
the Stratocaster and amp, blunt picks as bookmarks
in passages of Lawrence and Hardy you meant
to return some day. Cover the walls with silk
valances from Oman reeking of cinnamon
and men beheaded in Saudi market squares,
Audrey Hepburn’s portrait, and sketches
of past lovers asleep in sunlight. Cut
the doorway low and arduous, crawl in
as if at the end of a seven-year pilgrimage.
Preserve each room with stems of lavender
scattered on sofa and window sill,
sealed with turquoise shutters stitched tight
with cobwebs. Share this place with no one.
Already woodworm bore into Aunt Laura’s
pine sideboard and your love of Dad’s Army,
pigeons desecrate the bed through holes in the roof,
mice make nests out of the half-baked manuscript.
The Search for Sustenance
Lost amidst fourteenth-century city walls
there has been a schism. Steps chipped and marked,
the home of Lady Day parades and bishopric feet
with Cross held high, lead into the papal palace
swept by the sway of rouge robe and censer.
How small and diminished beneath this vaulted
painted sky of cherub couples waltzing
on bowed heads. Mass is still mass
in any language, comforting yet claustrophobic
like the houses’ approach in the older
purer districts, half-shuttered and not speaking
to strangers. The travel guide has been stolen,
petals of letters home pressed inside
have been torn apart and scattered,
half-formed thoughts that will soon perish
in the rain, beneath shoe and tire tread.
There is peach orchard after peach orchard
beyond the gates in the wall. Corpulent
sun-baked flesh dangling from branches
stretched out towards the road, a gift
to be plucked before anyone notices.
The first bite sends rivulets of hot juice
trickling down the chin. Pickers in Speedos
or cut-offs and bikini tops dart
amongst the trees like industrious nymphs.
But each farm says the same: pas de travail.
Ripe with blisters from day-long walking
and no sanctuary to be found
we finish on the riverbank shrouded
in sleeping bags, still not speaking,
feet pointed toward the water,
waiting for the rising tide.
Charles G Lauder Jr was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas, and has lived in the UK since 2000. His poems have appeared internationally, and his pamphlet Bleeds was published in 2012 by Crystal Clear Creators. Most recently he was highly commended in the 2015 Poetry Society Stanza Competition. He is the Assistant Editor for The Interpreter’s House.