Summer Lightning’s Spell

Looking back, our relatives will say,
We planned it. We chose, certainly but no,
No plan about it; anarchy – although
Design came into it.

And yours will say, I dragged you up the garden path!

And mine will say, “After all is said and done
He has no job, and never goes to mass!
He’s just a drifter, just a mongrel stray.”

As you pause at the door to pivot on your heel
And view the last train, hunger steels your will.

“You’re late!” I say – attempting to look down
My button nose at you as you bow your head
To kiss my cheek. My eyes are trying to
Connect with yours, but you look down, clumsily…
Escaping only briefly – and we kiss…

As you pause at the stairs and shuffle anxiously
I take your coat, pretending not to see.

We sit alone and talk alone, “Oh look!”
I’m carried off by pictures in a book
Of childish memories; the fairies glide
Across the page; the children ride
On ponies. You stare unable to believe
And make a weak sound of encouragement…

…But why the shudder? Do you feel the chill
Of tomb-cold hands as hunger steals your will?
Do you fear the sand between the toes,
The ghosts that haunt the shadowland?

“Come on! – There’s walking to be done,” I say.
Still hours to go till final light of day,
I try to sound as if my mood is gay,
Time for children to go out to play!

The river we discard as “too clichéd,”
Although the reason I dislike the name
Has more to do with death – how to explain
Those days in well scrubbed halls with whispered words,
“Gone to Rose Cottage,” — Get out of this mood.
Back in the present we stuff ourselves with food,
My post-bullemic appetite is good
Yet modest — I eat no more than I should,
Perhaps a slice of cake, a slice of death
By chocolate? — A sharp intake of breath;
Ahah! The waitress; Try to be discrete
— If staring is quite unavoidable,
She affected not to notice — why can’t you?

And then again, why didn’t you just run?
Lean walletted — as usual — you’ve gone
Without your lunch and hunger gnawed your will.
And even if you could afford a bun
At ‘Traveller’s Fare’, or even — at a pinch
— Big Mac and fries washed down with coke in town —
Do you have the nerve to take the walk of shame,
Or face my words whimpering through the air to spear
And burst your empty gallantries, and your ears?

And thou, O Man, ‘Eternal Present’ wouldst
Thou rather know no future, shun the past,
And seize on every opportunity?
Thy moments stretched no further than my purse,
Not as mine — from cradle to the hearse,
And all betwixt minutely planned — that’s me.
Such matters as, “for better or for worse,”
Thou wouldst not debate — chapter and verse
Dance on my needlepoint — but not for thee.

And what if — after all — no turning back?
After the coffee, meals, and films, and shows
And other baits I dangle at your back?
What if you’re planning better than you know?
What of the grey between the white and black?
And with so long a siege your armour rusts
Until you can no longer hide the cracks.

Our purpose wavers, resolution bends,
Shall you — after all — begin to like me?
Shall I — after all — begin to like you?
Shall we find sincerity at last?
Given time, will you grow to love my smile, rising
Over your Sunday morning paper, asking
If you want any more tea, toast, jam,
Bread, scones, cake, cream, any more?

One can — it is said — in time grow used to anything.
In time even you may acquire the taste for coffee,
Tea, or me — is that my plan? — in time…
Motives long forgotten… what we were once
Gone… Looking back we may say practically anything
To make it sound less random — should we care?

Rising to go my shoulder takes the coat
Our well tipped waitress flourishes, w’ere off!
Another coffin nail of idle time.

The waitress lingers in my jaded brain,
Neither very pretty nor too plain,
Her apron — linen, white; but with a stain,
She will have — one supposes — several boys in train,
Equipped to strut and play her little part,
She practically curtsied, carefully
Replaced my chair and smiled at you — and me
— the very model of servility,
I wonder what picture we would see if we
Watched her — a pair of flies upon the wall…
As she smiled at us — then spat into the soup?

And after all — what could I say? What could
I do to undo it? — Never strong on purpose,
Make it up as I go along; that’s me,
If I’m honest — plan and plan then tear it up!
And can you see my fortune in your cup?

And will you go at last, cloaked in the night?
Without a word, without a note, take flight,
And leave me to draw the obvious conclusion?
Listen; fatted calves are rare these days,
And you’ve grown used to watching West End plays
From seats that cost more than a double room
In bedsit land. No. I have sealed your doom,
Seek within my eyes — their crystal depths
Will show you just what your fate has in store,
And after all; if you are to be bored
— And nobody escapes! — admit it, you might as well
Be bored with all the trappings of the rich
Than throw up in some other dreary ditch.

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About Zoe Nightingale

I am a writer of short stories, novels, poetry and non fiction.
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