(In memoriam J.P.)

Morning in lockdown. Shadows in the yard,
Quink-blue and gradually
shifting, like those eels we used to see
above the weir, thick
whipcords of lust
and instinct, surging
headlong through the mystery of grass.
Forty years on, but all I have to do
is close my eyes to see you
cycling to Cherry Hinton in that dust-grey
skirt you used to wear, the dawn light
following the river back to town
– and every summer
proximate, since then,
though you were gone
before the mist set in
and anyway, it wasn’t what we thought:
the true romance
was place, the faint
continuum of rain
on Byron’s Pool, the passing
moment, when an owl skimmed overhead
and left me here, years
later, half a mile
of buddleia and birdsong to the nearest
traffic, threads
of damp along the walls,
but warmer than the house I thought
would shield me: first sun
streaming through the trees,
no I, no us, but just beyond the fence,
a skylark in the near field, flush with song.

A Footnote to Colossians

For ye are dead, and your life is hid.
                                                      St Paul

Let us remember
the stillborn: how they

cede their places here
with such good grace

that no one ever
speaks of them

In school,

we placed them, carefully,
in Limbo,

deep in the folds of smoke
and snowfall, where

their names would never
find them:

pagan, now,
and immaterial,

like phantoms,
or that boy I sometimes saw

in polaroids,
the one they said was me.

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