Open 11am to 8pm
Royal Festival Hall (Level 5), Southbank Centre, LondonOpen Tuesday - Sunday from 11am to 8pm
The house is quiet empty
Nervously I await your coming - or not coming? -
through this night
A mystery - not taken for granted
Like a folk story a children’s story
“Over the hills at night she came
through the dark through the storm
past the crashing shore
along the wind-battered cliffs”
Sometimes the words don’t come
There are no words for such times this
the house is neat for your arrival
our kiss and touching
Mama and I are sharing special moments
on the verandah.
A strange babbling streams towards us -
a big girl! a woman? (I'm not sure)
sways along the sun-strewn path from the back gate.
Mama, mouth slightly agape, stares at her
with silent questions.
At four years, I don't understand this
rare pantomime, but I know something's odd:
(now, I think she was hysterical, and about 18)
just laughing and crying, jabbering like mad!
Mama consoles and gives her something -
clothes? food? I'm guessing;
she becomes quiet - until - giggle, giggle, giggle -
she's off again!
I'm thinking it's not safe (she might be mad
and dangerous), but I'm sorry for her. Mama
can always shut the door quickly. Impatiently,
I'm willing for her to go - go on. Not go away;
that feels unkind.
She's made an impression on me, OK!
Her wild-woman shimmy, voiced into a cheerful
A tisket, a tasket, my brown and yellow basket,
bewilders me - it's funny - but I'm too awe-struck
and well-taught to laugh.
Mama mutters something about 'crazy' -
she's frowning a little, but not grumbling.
My tummy slackens when she shuts the gate
behind her. A soft fear lingers.
Will she come back?
Half a century later, I still see the red -
red, yellow, and other colours in her hair;
the red in her dress; the torn-woman's dervish;
hear the echoes, 'my brown and yellow basket'.
If I am the grass and you the breeze, blow through me.
If I am the rose and you the bird, then woo me.
If you are the rhyme and I the refrain, don’t hang
on my lips, come and I’ll come too when you cue me.
If yours is the iron fist in the velvet glove
when the arrow flies, the heart is pierced, tattoo me.
If mine is the venomous tongue, the serpent’s tail,
charmer, use your charm, weave a spell and subdue me.
If I am the laurel that wreathes your brow, you are
the arms around my bark, arms that never knew me.
Oh would that I were bark! So old and still in leaf.
And you, dropping in my shade, dew to bedew me!
What shape should I take to marry your own, have you –
hawk to my shadow, moth to my flame – pursue me?
If I rise in the east as you die in the west,
die for my sake, my love, every night renew me.
If, when it ends, we are just good friends, be my Friend,
muse, brother and guide, Shamsuddin to my Rumi.
Be heaven and earth to me and I’ll be twice the me
I am, if only half the world you are to me.