THE LONGCASE CLOCK
He took a long last look at his little girl
with the daisy in her mouth, a grin larger than life –
cyan and jade coming out softer and brighter
than Kodachrome – and closed the door.
When she reached the house, everything looked the same
except for the silent wood case on the wall.
The old clock was fully wound up but it didn’t swing.
It took her three attempts to set it back in beat.
He opened the clock-case and stopped it with his hand,
as chilled as the frost-kissed artichokes
he harvested that day in the field.
He knew that stopping it is better,
when you’re going away for a week or more,
far better than letting it run down and stop itself.
THE BLACKBIRD HOUR
How those big Thracian women fitted into their small
straw chairs, it’s a wonder. But sliding out of their houses one
by one like spectral apparitions of the blackbird hour,
arranging their chairs on the pavement, they made you think
of an Amazon gathering after a day of battle. Only this time,
instead of their bows, spears, peltas and their labrys,
they’d lay their cups and saucers before their smoky eyes –
where a chariot, hair worn in a bun and a thick, muddy bed
around the handle would recount my grandmother’s descent
to Athens, her dying husband, the uncalculated distance.
On Sundays, you could see them in church, their outsize bums
squeezed into stiff-necked pews, pious-looking save a slant
witchy look noticed only by the initiated. I call upon them to caress
the inside of my skull, those spectral apparitions of the blackbird hour.
LE GUEULOIR*, ETRETAT
i.m. Andrew Smith
I come here to grieve. The place is February quiet.
I try to picture you ready for spring. I linger
a few days for your second coming. There’s no such thing.
Cathedral shaped and gleaming white, our rented house
used to be a gueuloir. A small theatre for writers to howl.
It’s dead silent now.
Bird’s nest ferns are sprawling at the entrance
like green fires. The glint of Needle Rock and Porte d’Aval
might catch your eye.
I stand at the doorway – nothing like the open sky and sea
and the herring gulls with the red mark on their beaks,
their long-drawn cries over the sheer cliffs
Le Gueuloir, from the French verb ‘gueuler’ (‘to yell’) is a technique Gustave Flaubert used in order to perfect his work. Flaubert recited sentences aloud to detect writing defects such as repetitions or assonances.