In thrall to intimations of your fate,
you review the past’s transactions,
that austere boyhood near London,
lamp-posts disappear into fog,
images reminiscent of Whistler.
Her headscarf, her hurried walk
past dripping privet, smell of petrol,
his flat cap above a thin cigarette
you rolled for him with his gadget,
strident cockney humour on the wireless.
Those eked out days resemble happiness,
the black and white cat’s claws prick your thighs,
just enough to eat, but no books,
the lane behind your back garden,
stinging nettles, dock weed, dandelion.
Walking down Staines Road to the gasworks
for creosote to paint the chicken coop,
fill your lungs with tar fumes,
those wide-belted men, all vanished now,
call out his nickname from dark sheds.
Your strange stirring for this, still,
the scullery where she sips brewed tea,
her chilblains soaking in a chipped bowl,
outside, leaves drift piled against the fence,
the kind neighbor, her disabled daughter.
Here and now’s clamour on mute,
your young face gazes from a puddle,
lures you towards beautiful shadows,
a siren, yes, the air-raid shelter,
drizzle, rations, a kind of beauty, yes.