We’d watch dusk creeping slowly over the hot
Sicilian day. The sky-skin taut and breathing
warmth, even in darkness, as the orange
trees were watered, pools forming at their white
painted bark and green fruits bright within grey
shadows waiting solemnly un-noticed and here.
And you’d talk to me of pips; the beginnings
of business and the daily manufacture
of components to light the camera’s lights
and power the batteries to record and film
all of this forever, or the digital
ever, anyway, pixelating the world
round as those Christingle gifts I crafted
at first school from oranges to universes.
Sometimes the fruits would already be moulding
as I plunged cloves into the bright, thick flesh
to scent them further, realising as I tied
a red ribbon of blood to the equator
the web of splitting segments was ourselves
splintering as we shared evening’s silences;
voices lulled and quiet as oranges ripened.
We lifted the front panel
of Nan’s piano out.
Its dust now sticky with age,
cracking against lacquered wood.
Its notes resting on felt –
runners poised on a starting block –
the vibration of sound a promise
as we heaved it free
of its stuffed elephant existence –
a carcass lifted – dripping
with the blood of a different world.
Of a war when Nan played piano in pubs
and working men’s clubs, singing
in London, between the sirens.
That was before the x-ray of her lung
became vague of breath and sported
cavities; dark holes shown eating,
eating at youth’s tissue.
VE day sang its victory
in the TB sanatorium
where she spent the last year
of the war, breathing, recovering the dust
of herself from the dust of the blitz
where her angora jumper, brand new
and completely insignificant, blazed
on the washing line burning itself to memory.
The scar the surgeon’s scalpel left on her back
was crescent-shaped, and puckered,
knitted together like everything from then.
Make Do and Mend as with music.
Damaged, surviving, the piano stands
Its sinews singing now as my daughter plays
and with each octave stretch to a chord
I hear the piano wonder Nan’s music.
Sticky with sun and walking
surrounded by fields
ironed flat and gaping
beyond us to a distant
infinity of hedges
the strawberries glimmer
their tender swell
of scarlet from beneath their tri-fold
parasol leaves nestled around our feet.
The dry earth, their nest, strewn
with brittle straw and filled
with summer ripening.
Turning and turning the sun
blazes its axis to unwatchable
tongues nagging the clear sky
to reckoning. To a justification
of blank heat and inescapable
Our fingers clutch the stalks, snap
their greenness to song
staining our fingers indelibly
and our mouths to blush as we eat
the swelter and sweetness
of day to red memory.
Because it is the crush of sky
to water – a horizon of lines
drawn long and mapping the dittoed
trail of ships printing waves
on carbon paper, words
printed to endless echoes
and because it is the soft howl
of saxophone notes lingering
surging then that pout of lipstick
butting up against beauty
its kiss filled with the smudge
of bitten cornflowers –
their stars flung from night
with the blazing ends of fused indigo.
And because it is everything
we ever wanted to say –
without any words.