A World Elsewhere

William Scammell

1 The Visit

 

There were barns, paddocks,

young fruit trees coquetting

in the rain and thrum of wind.

It blew so hard the awning

of the outside love-seat split

a little further every hour.

 

Tall dogs with silky hair

slipped moorings by the Aga

gliding up to my strange scent;

the squash-faced semi-precious cat

subsided into a hump; and you

sat down, oblique and fine as

an old-fashioned stroke of the pen.

 

All the covers of the novels kiss.

Five chickens cluck in the yard

like perfect readers, wanting more

and more from the rich yawny air

to which they held one claw up

in mid-strut. When the time came

 

you fed us all we needed

baroque vespers after a light supper

of green salad and talk

served up with a rainbow trout.

I liked your vestal nightie,

sloping eyes, gig girlish feet

better that the small history

we made ourselves to make that night.

 

2 Not Marble

 

Beatrice, Laura, and the Dark Lady are.

discovered over a litter of tableware

with second cups of coffee, chocolate mints,

liquers, the viol's languid impudence.

 

candour shines from each immortal eye.

two handsome serving men are waved away.

Someone pulls out an exquisite handkerchief

and mops her nose. They laugh, and laugh, and

laugh.

 

3 Kiev (after Mandelstam)

 

Last night the army trundled out of town

on the last streetcar, hugging its wounded. One

great bloodstained overcoat was calling out

"Don't worry, we'll be back among you! Soon!"