This is the saddest poem I shall ever write.
There’s Morris Townsend stalking from the house
Of blameless Catherine, his hat upon his head,
Smarting disappointment that the meek mouse
Pursued by him has crushed with vexing dignity
His plea that friendship be allowed to grow
Once more, despite the silence of his absent years
Spent travelling and getting, and the blow
Landed brutely a decade since, rejecting her
Because control of all he wished would not
Be his. What made him think it might be otherwise?
In agony the years pour back with what
I’d hoped forgotten: broiling storms of obstinate
Despair which swamped all sense; unruly surges
Of love and hate which crashed like blackened waves on sands
Made sumps by spray and rain, and the wind’s dirges
Screaming over the seaweed, soggy as ropes, heaped
At the storm-line, crawled across by sand crabs
Like confessors digging motives. And who’s to blame?
Where’s forgiveness? My tale, a hand which grabs
Your arm as the stairs turn, may only be resolved
In death. Was it a case of opposites?
You used to amplitude, the freedom of fine rooms,
Where ornament and grace-notes as befits
A dwelling held aloof by the exemplary
Milch of trust funds, embodied boundaries,
Implicit expectations, always difficult
For one who kept small rooms, a life of sundries
And unheated winter mornings to intrude upon.
Likewise, love for you was contextual,
Requiring the warm weft of family and friends
As setting for commitments functional
As well as heartfelt; whereas I preferred the cold
Mist of sunrise, a soul-denuding calm
Which offered isolation and intensity
Of thought on self – that puzzle-in-a-psalm
Wrong-footing every sage and scribbler who has tugged
A loved one into its transfixing coils.
O, but memories of grace and giving oversweep:
Those moments which up-end the toils and moils
Of passing hours, epiphanising what’s most real
In any true commitment – that entrusting
Of each to each, an unconditional bestowing
In self-abandonment that knows no musting
Nor peevish motive. I recall a time of play,
Of guileless teasing, you confronting me
Helpless in laughter, falling in my arms and resting
In and on them, bodily, psychically –
Your skin was blushed, your voice as musical as water;
A boundless moment superseding time
In which the weaker, trusting, was caressed to growth,
The stronger one, sustaining, sought the prime
Of both, fulfilled that strength might be transposed to being
And thereby draw the hidden inwardness
Of persons to a crux of pure communion.