EdmondHe stood outside the watchshop.
Outside time, outside time
And the passing fair would stop
to hear the joke of the day.
They’d stand there laughing away.
You hadn’t a care in the world.
Outside time, outside time
The walking stick that you twirled
was a baguette or ficelle.
It spun too fast to tell.
A cloud from the sea
envelopes the town,
and the mind is filled
with fishermen’s tales,
when out of the mist
comes Donald Crowhurst.
he offers his hand.
‘Now where have you been?’
‘Dead. Dead to the world.’
I buy him a Scotch
on the strength of it.
The cenotaph of Nomdedieu
has refreshed its blue, and given
itself a swaggering angel.
‘Nom d’une pipe’, said M. Bols
from his crypt shelf. ‘C’est un bordel.’
The evil-looking clochard
is drawing banknotes
from the hole in the wall.
A dozen gendarmes are looking into a pram.
One armed with a rifle says, ‘Can it speak, Madame?’
‘Not yet.’ ‘A pity.’ The mother belts up the hood,
and rolls on. A wild boar runs back into the wood.
La Petite Sylviette
‘Natty it was put the evil eye
says Stanis with some satisfaction.
He had been driven to distraction
by her running up and down the stairs
at all hours. ‘The curse in Natty’s prayers
worked.’ But I wouldn’t put it past him
to take banana skins from the bin,
and leave them loose on the top landing.
It does no harm to keep your hand in.
Requiem for a Clochard
If you sleep underneath a garbage truck,
when it begins to warm at dawn, wake up.
It is the idling hour. Do not forget
your bed, once mobile, can crush you to death.
My latest rival in town has no chin.
And sports the clothes, and a younger woman,
who’s grateful and does everything for him.
He claps his hands, and she cries, ‘I’m coming’.
Deadpan, uptight. And as ugly as sin.
If he was attentive I’d understand.
At best she is a trophy. Dignity
keeps the top button of his shirt tied, and
he doesn’t talk much except to agree
to differ. He has got the upper hand.
Our confrontations at afternoon tea
have reached the nod stage. Her smile’s a mere twitch,
and I return it with due sympathy.
I notice she pays. So he must be rich.
My malice makes him superior to me.
The birds are singing in Pujol’s garden.
Muted excitement on a taut string.
They know the breach of promise that is spring.
Yellow mimosa brings out the ardent
flies, but there’s snow still on the foothills.
Blossom surfs in the wind. Cherry. Almond.
The trees won’t bud till seagulls leave the land,
and the storks start to nest in church steeples.
Camellias that flourish like blushing brides,
are the foolish virgins of the Pyrenees.
Their bloom blighted by the last blast of hail.
Vines won’t unknot with sap till March divides.
Then blackbirds will sing with full throated ease,
and you can listen for the nightingale.
New Year Departures
Le silence séduit la verité, René Char
The streets are so quiet you could hear a snore.
But it’s all clear in the nose department. All
you hear is ‘silence seducing the truth’.
And the truth has good reason to rue it.
I check the death notices at the town hall
They tell me Francis Letard is no more.
I doubt if he knew it was coming, droll
with his salutations behind a glass,
always half-full. Winter has taken its toll.
‘I wouldn’t have wanted to spoil your Christmas’,
haunts the voice of Madame Rabat-Joie, gone toes
up at last. She won’t have surprised herself.
Never short of a word to tale her woes
(the Great War male-dearth left her on the shelf).
A minute’s silence. What’s the truth, God knows.