A Flying Visit                                                 

I see shiny-bald

        thick-necked Mr Metcalfe

                           blowing smoke-rings

in his braces and white singlet

        resting arms on the dining room table

                          as tobacco stains spiral his thoughts

up to the ceiling

         facing the mirror that spins him slowly

                 in reflection; ex-police sergeant

lighting one cigarette from another,

        the sugar in his tea rotating

                as his wife sets down the tray and reverses

so the mirror lifts itself off the wall

        tipping up years

                   in a scatter of back gardens and alleys

cantilevering rooftops and

         chimneystacks till starlings pour out –

                   leave aerials twanging – alight on

Miss Darlington’s watering can that dips

        to slake the throats of blue hydrangeas in No 12.

                   O Stephen St of St Anne’s on Sea,

your tarmacked asphalt after rain is perfume

        your photographs rock

                on sideboards and sills in a gospel of tongues.

And now comes a day of flying ants, the winged

      females in all the gardens, I am standing in Gladys U. Parker’s hallway

               near the statue of her African prince, Nicodemus:

her Lancashire r’s and vowels float towards me.

       Auntie Doris is pastry-brushing milk across

                 a meat and potato pie with its fork holes,

placing it with oven-gloves on the middle shelf

        for her lodger Harry Bailey’s tea –

             this gesture she makes repositioning a hair-grip

 lives for fifty years in the mirror,

       her laugh between No 7 and No 9

             conjures Ruby the spaniel’s bark through walls


as a cat high-tails it along the fence,

            composes head and feet into an Egyptian carving

                     as it yawns to its needle-teeth.

Dice-shake the houses and out we all tumble

           kicking dried-white dog-dirt, walking on stilts,

                     venturing knock-a-door run and chain-tig 


Geoffrey Logan, three years older, sparks up a Silk Cut

            which I hold and inhale, try blowing smoke-rings,

                      slash up the wall as high as he can.

My dad is sandpapering the gate, my mum clipping the mock-orange bush

            (I once ate petals from it in my pram)

                     and now he dips his brush into the paint tin.

See that streak on the brick wall right here? It dripped

         one afternoon and you can still see the mark.

                    What kind of blue I ask him

and my dad looks right back

        through the mirror and tells me

                    it is royal blue, or was it ultramarine

as the worlds flashing alongside this one

        lift the lid off the tin

                   and make a flying saucer of it

scattering drops and particles

       that swallow-dive with us

                 into the great accelerator.




Graeme Ryan 2020