Once More in Paradise

Heaven, I sometimes think, must be
where I grew up – mid-August,
the raspberries run wild and ripe,
hens scratching in the yard,
the house dim and cool,
red tiles under bare feet;

where, all the long afternoon,
those whom I love and will love
arrive, sleepy, stretch out on the lawn,
washed in the sunlight after the long drive,

and, after, talk late round the kitchen table,
plates pushed aside,
with song and red wine and laughter,
the world set to rights.

Ascension Day, 2015

Dog-eared in my handbag, polling card
and service sheet lie face to face.
God is gone up. And what a mess
He’s left behind Him. Did He take
all of the world’s compassion, all its love
to shine with ineffectual gleam up there
and leave these few, these twelve-take-one, alone
tiny before this tide of hate and fear
surging around them? Come love, come Lord.
Show us your kingdom come
on earth, as you are
in heaven. Come, Holy Spirit. Come.

Table for One

You couples do not see me, you
who enter laughing, hand in hand,
sip from each other’s drinks, and share
an indecisive dish of olives.

I have my hands full here: fork
in the right; book
in the left. I turn
one-handed in the paper walls
of this, my chambre séparée.

The candle glows; the wine’s
a living garnet. O –

you need not pity me. I dine tonight
with Rupert Hentzau.

The Advance Party

We woke to the sound of nothing,
the lack of that forty-day thrum:
the rain had stopped, wind stilled; we rocked
so gently in our coffin-cradle
you might have thought
our parent slept.

I threw the hatch back; saw a square
of clear grey sky; smelt damp air
– and, frightened, shut it out,
needing (I said) to think.
It was warm inside.
Safe there, enclosed in darkness,
accustomed to the swaying floor,
the solid walls and roof,
I’d chosen to forget we had
to touch the ground again.

That night we feasted, sang,
laughed and gave thanks,
snug in our floating box. I crept away,
up to the deck where the birds roosted.
Most slept, but one raven, dark
in the dark shadows, blinked at me
with gold-rimmed eye. I chose her.
Tough claws gripping my fingers, we climbed
up, up to the hatch and that
empty square of sky.

She knew better than I did;
she flew before I was ready
to let her go.
My hand was light without her.
I watched the sky as long as I could bear it;
then, dizzy, I shut the hatch again,
and tried to forget her.