Re-reading them, I am taken back there,
to the first house I remember.
Square rooms, my bedroom window
looking out across the town. Our fingerprints
in dust on the banisters to the attic
where the skylight collected water-beads and stars.
The night light burning down,
thick blankets kept winter out.
Under covers with a torch,
sheets starched a warm hollow
for my breathing, and my books
where phrases were like music,
singing a simple world.
I wonder if I seem as wrinkled now
as those relations who arrived
in shiny shoes, with permed
or backcombed hair. Sinewed
and powdered, they looked like
carousel horses from a fairy tale.
It seems recent that I was given
those books: heavy paper gifts
of pattern. Celebration to wonder
at on rainy afternoons. Love encircling
me with what I already half knew,
that I was solitary preferring to
stand outside, watching from a distance.
We never lose what happens when we
are only in the present. Existing in minutes,
seconds, each day a chance to reach for
who we are, those rooms forever
open in my mind, when I knew
no paths beyond the gate,
did not see how dark can extinguish light,
or that I could become so old, so tall.
In Torchlight is taken from the book, The Shape of Us (Shoestring Press, Nottingham, 2010, ISBN 1 907356 07 0. Cover illustration: Rachel Birkett.)