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Poetry: History

 

The Crystal Palace: 1879 CE

I will sit by the window,
counting snowflakes.  Old cushions lean,
colourless, in corners -- like fog,
like snowdrifts, like
the careful, grey winter of
an old woman's hair, upswept and orderly,
smelling of powder.    I will sit
by the window, a cushion
beneath my elbow, counting
snowflakes.
                At the end of a century
                is a feeling of dying. The world ran
                all too smoothly,
                                 up the hill.   The stone
                has come to rest, there is
                no more to conquer, no more hills, no
                visible mountains.
                                   Fin de siècle.

With no further destination
is the journey still not ended?
The window asks nothing:    the lawn shows
a blank face, toothless. The snow
settles like
             memory over hedgerows, and
the blunted edges of
the gardener's shears.
                                  We think too much on past things.
                                  I know old women, forever
                                  in black, who sit
                                  at the complacent sleep
                                  of afternoon tea, whose talk
                                  is slow,       of Jubilee, and
                                  certainty.
They have no husbands.
Their hands do not hurry over
endless petitpoint that fades like autumn,
resting in corners, for the houses
of their grandchildren.
                       Let the sun, then,
never set. The frost makes pictures
over the window.
                               Amidst foliage, trumpets
                               are raised against the walls.
                               And, yet, 
                                         no prophet
                               has come 
                               to speak.   Even when
                               the light has become too weak
                               to work,
old and orderly fingers
tick the stitching        out of habit.
When the sun is gone,
there will still be time.
The night, no more than
                       a sleeping,
may be postponed.
                                 You cross the lawn,
                                 leaving behind a single line 
                                 of prophecy.           But, then,
                                 the snow is falling.
                                 The shears I had forgotten
                                 are in your hands
                                 Are you thinking
                                 of summer?
My finger, drawn across the window,
makes a mysterious image in
the frost, which only
                       the cold
can heal, without scar.
The gardener's scissors gleam
as you clean them with
the end of your scarf.
The winter has lost you.
                                  Only I remain 
                                  on the window cushions, 
                                  brushing my hair, and
                                  counting snowflakes.
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