The rain-flecked windows, bright
as lit magnesium. The hearth
of black stone. The russet pips
dripping from the rare blue-green
of winter pines. The asthma
of a church organ uprooted
into the front room. The workshop
with mice teeming across the walls.
The western novels printed
into large type. The cupboard
of preserves stored for disaster.
The painting of abandoned canoes
on a Hawaiian beach. The record player
uncoiling lengths of cut vinyl
like bands of liquorice. The dream
of rain and God’s light. The nights
spent listening for fox paws
on blue gravel. The tomato vines
growing wild, the spines
on their green fur. The Bible bound
in maroon leather. The tin box
of disused electrical equipment.
The strip of beech wood
soaked in the overflow barrel
and bent into a ring. The smell of tar
and creosote. The wars. And
a moment before she died,
when she placed her hand
into mine, her skin swollen
into a white glove, her eyes
focused on mine and we grasped
all the things we would lose.
What happened? Too many drinks
on the way back from Montmartre,
that old guy hexing us
with his cigar? Place de Clichy,
so much more seedy
than you were expecting?
The whole day weirder, more
actual than we anticipated.
Like our time together became
a trip to deserted stately home
with us stalking the rococo halls,
and all we wanted was a glass of water.
In truth it had all been building
for months, and no photo calls, tourist poses
and candlelight was going to put it off.
No discussion on old masters
to save us in this gallery:
as we consider all the little masterpieces
of disappointment we have collected
since, well, whenever…? That one,
with me in the finery
of a fifteenth century nobleman
abandoning you to usury, the plague
a peacock cracking up plumage
to signify loss. Or this one,
with you in a high collared dress
turning your back to me
and holding out your arms wide
to a new future: the sky
red, orange, violet and pink,
a rage of smoky fury, blazing
all the way down to the vanishing point.
The White House
You take elegance where you can
in this town. An ash tree
rubbed out by winter, a blue fence
like paper soaked through
with India ink. And the white house
beyond, a legacy from the thirties.
It’s there again, this evening:
witnessing our chance encounter,
outside the house we shared.
That familiarity we still have
as we talk of family and the news
which has collected. The odd calm
which drives us now: the way
pain dissipates and leaves behind
what exactly? Minor aches
at the shoulders, the knees.
A lick of white at the hairline
where dye grows out. The heart
closes off, crinkles stiffly
as it tries to unfold. Who
are these people, now? I remember
when we first moved here
and someone from the white house
knocked at our door: a small man
old and plaintive, out to defeat
loneliness with his welcome.
It felt like a relationship
I should expect to endure:
chance encounters at the store,
a friend in emergencies, a sense
of belonging and quiet certainty.
I could easily believe in those things.
Daniel Bennett was born in Shropshire and lives and works in London. His poems have appeared in a number of places, most recently in Structo and The Literateur. He’s also the author of the novel All the Dogs (Tindal Street, 2008). You can find him on Twitter @Absenceclub