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Royal Festival Hall (Level 5), Southbank Centre, LondonOpen Tuesday 12 noon - 6 pm, Wednesday to Sunday 12 noon – 8 pm
We meet on streets to prolong the catwalk, to lengthen arrival so it aligns more
commensurately with its anticipation. A street of three blocks or more with enough
pedestrians to heighten awareness and to raise a few false hopes at a glimpse of a
similar coat or swing of hair. Now that you're here, turn at the next corner. Go back
to approach me again.
Turn off your phone.
Place it, face down,
on cold sandstone: that oxblood-red back-step
she buffed for sixty years.
past the well-kept lawn, its marrow stripes
while radio waves walk through walls,
bark, bone and steel:
congregate to a signal.
Rest your eyes beyond the fence
on the trunks of birch that ebb into the wood.
Feel those white trees breathe.
of branch and leaf may offer some relief.
Whether they do or don't,
after a time you must pick up your phone,
face its empty screen:
turn it on again.
I think back to making the tea,
filling the kettle from the cold water tap
as I looked out the kitchen window
at the stone walls and patches of yesterday’s snow,
then turning a knob on the stove,
putting a flaming wooden match to the gas jet,
and heating the cup with hot water,
as I thought of my mother doing the same.
I pulled a teabag from the little box
and a cloud in the shape of England passed over me.
The boiling water spit from the kettle,
and every season seemed sadder than the last one.
I cut a lemon wedge
and thought about my wife on another continent,
and when I lowered a spoonful
of shining honey into the dark water,
the sick and the poor
crossed my mind as well as soldiers and the police.
A Rhine maiden swam along the bottom of a river
and a man on crutches swung by.
A steaming cup and a room full of sunlight,
a good hand to lift the cup to my lips
and another to wave pen
over a wide open notebook –
for a few minutes, that was enough –
to be alone with tea
on a Sunday morning in February –
then came the poem and not knowing when it was done.
The tons of brick and stone, the yards of piping,
the sinks and china basins, three toilets, the tiles,
and the tons of wood in floors, chairs, tables,
the yards of flex and cable that wrap the house
like a net, the heavy glassed front door, the gate
onto the street, the rippled sheets of window,
the yew tree by the back, the pictures, books, piano:
what would it all weigh? One kiss, one breathed
declaration, and there it is: the mass of love.
Hurt no living thing:
Ladybird, nor butterfly,
Nor moth with dusty wing,
Nor cricket chirping cheerily,
Nor grasshopper so light of leap,
Nor dancing gnat, nor beetle fat,
Nor harmless worms that creep.