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Still Life with WineglassR.F. Langley
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Vol. 23 No. 12 · 21 June 2001
Poem

Still Life with Wineglass

R.F. Langley

613 words

A wineglass of water on
the windowsill where it will
catch the light. Now be quiet
while I think. And groan. And blink.

I am anxious about the
wineglass. It’s an expert at
staying awake. How can it
ever close its eyes? It’s too
good a defence against an
easy sleep under the trees.

The wineglass stands fast in a
gale of sunlight, where there is
one undamaged thistle seed
caught on its rim, moving its
long filaments through blue to
orange, slowly exploring
the glorious furniture.

Old Harry has opened that
bundle again. Oh well. Tuck
up your golden sleeves. Fetch out
the white gloves. We’ll go right through
the thistle seeds till we find
Jenny.

The finch’s mother
told him about teasels. He
consults them daily with fierce
resignation. His findings,
however, fluff out and cream
off, catching the drift.

Mum was
the word, but she did give a
nod. So they sidled up close,
put a foot on its neck and
kiss, kiss; kiss, kiss. Sometimes they
stopped pecking to watch what they
could not follow. Parachutes
whispering away

Milk and
magenta. A gob of the
cotton, torn from the button,
thrown into despair. So there’s
nothing remains of what we
see? Does it? Does it? Tumbled
about in the air?

We speak
from out there and we keep things
alive. The wineglass reminds
me of wading birds, when their
beaks meet their beaks as they feed
on a mirror of mud and
mark ‘Here’ as a point in the
water that’s deep in the sky.

Fetch me a folding chair. Set
it up by the south door. This
is etiquette. I am the
ticket collector. Nothing
comes in but thistledown which
scarcely touches the floor and
was never supposed to pay.

New pennies. Spun into the
droning paternoster. How
close Jenny rose to the top.
Then turned back, and you lost her.

Each bubble considered the
rest as it chose its place. Out
in the morning everything
settled, before I could look.
Down centre is a tomb or
shrine. The sun is shining on
the corner of a panel
set into its side. It’s all
paid on the nail. None of it
is mine. Way off, and running
strongly through the hazy, slate
blue sky, that must be rosy
Mercury, bent on a quest.

He did choose the third sister.
Jenny wasn’t there. Recent
incidents are never seen
in the crystal ball. Only
a procession of distant
people, passing below a
ruined wall, brightly lit, but
microscopically small.

Soft pappus strings out like a
search party. It’s looking for
the concealed figure of a
god. Whoever dropped him in
the clump of weeds forgot him,
so they could seek him in the
sacred hunt. Remember how
the wineglass put its foot down,
chip-chop, happy to be home.

Next. Invent a religious
uncle. He was the one who
taught you elocution when
you lived in the forest. Give
me the details. I want your
whole story clear in my mind.
Rabbits are kindling in their
burrows. Tomorrow Harry
will meet Nuncle just as you
described him. They will sit down
together in the sun and
puff at the dandelion.

A bumper. Little fingers
that were hidden flicked the dice.
The cunning rascals counted
on convincing you these were
the lucky accidents of
a busy day, set, at the
end of it, in solid ice.

The window. The wineglass. A
yew tree inside it, upside
down, far away and very
distinct. A cautious chaffinch
sits tight through the shift of the
consonants. The needles are
green. The bird knows it is pink.

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