A Flying Visit
I see shiny-bald
thick-necked Mr Metcalfe
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