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Recorded at 'Citizens of the Archive' at the National Poetry Library, July 2017. Written for Nelson Mandela.
Slip through the letter box with messages:
Some bland, some more intense, some aching with
Bereavements, wives abandoned, loss of jobs.
The annual contact on a patient card.
‘See you next year’ some say and quite forget
Before the ink is dry. A plaster patch
That leaves no sticky mark on minor wounds
However much the cover faces please
With coloured art or kitsch or nearly art.
One threatens every time in wiry script
‘This is the last card I shall send. I am
Too old now’. Still it slides into my hand.
And there is one that comes anonymous,
Unsigned, the postmark adds its mystery,
A smudge, a ghost behind this paper mask?
Perhaps there’ll be a few to tuck away
After the show, in an old envelope,
Fingered at times because the sender once
Carved hope into a fraction of your years;
Or others will imply ‘I am still here’ -
A comma on your page a life ago.
Between crows at dawn
barking the latest news
of their Shogun ancestors
and sparrows at dusk
debating the meaning
of a fragile economy,
the International garden
discovers a stillness
absolute as brushwork.
Slow carp might stir
the long lily roots
with their silk kimonos,
clouds will definitely
drag the odd shadow
across duckweed lawns,
but the one real event
will be my decision
to lift a red leaf
from the fang of rock
overhanging this pool,
and so free the current
to fall to earth
which will never again
be one and the same.