by Simon Armitage

A washing line strung between our house and theirs,
those neighbourly neighbours, settlers
from a lost age and a childless planet.

In this flashback scene
I'm the kid sprawled on their front-room carpet
staging shows and plays
with the sugar-glazed Capodimonte pieces
in the opera house of their hearth and fireplace.

The reclining shepherd, the snooty princess,
the drunken soldier, the framp on the bench,
the pig in the frough
and the rearing horse,
every figure worth a tortnighi's wages.

* * *

Teaspoon. Tack. Spokeshave. Bit.
Thimble. Bradall. Crochet hook.

* * *

For my twenty-tirst I hunted down
a tirst edition ot George Mackay Brown's
Fishermen with Ploughs
with the netted shoal and plough at rest
on the brick-coloured cover,
and handed it over.

Then they handed it back, gift-wrapped
in waxy brown paper and gardening fwine
with a fiver, like a bookmark, slipped inside.

* * *

The apple seller.
A wren in its nest.
The poised ballerina.
The scribe at his desk.

* * *

When I lift the lid ot the model village
they're just as I left them, tinkering, grating.

The king in his kingdom
of hen-scratched earth, a soft flurry
of Rhode Island Reds around his work-boots,
or alone in the shed among oil-guns and ratchets,
hunched and wordless.

The queen in the gathered light by the window
knotting cOasters, doilies,
cushion-covers and christening bonnets
with a worn tortoiseshell tatting shutle
and fish-eye needles.

Or through veils ot steam, glistening and ghostly,
rising trom the cellar draped in laundry
to peg out boil-washed sheets and pillow cases.
see clean paper, white pages.

The Unaccompanied

Last updated March 07, 2023