My hands know every nubble of the wallpaper.
The wind still shuffles about behind the fireplace.
On better days, I go downstairs for dinner;
tomorrow we shall have paper hats – it’s Christmas
on television. We carried up the angled lamp
to stand it by my bed, bending above the pillow.
The rooftops opposite, the aerials, the stunted trees
like broccoli, forming my skyline are the same
but farther off. The birds that come and go
are more like shadow puppets now,
and never call my name across the street.
I may look out at half past three,
my head upon the windowsill, to watch
a tangerine and silver sunset.
Or I may not.
So many of the books I learned to read
in my cocoon of eiderdown and blankets
are here, lined up and leaning on the shelves. Today,
I took one down and opened it, and every page
was white. I think of all the letters I have known
dancing their spider-conga down in the narrow space
behind the cupboards. The phone rings in two rooms,
and I am not afraid; I know it won’t be anyone for me.
I close this book. I lie here, until teatime,
stare up at the light-bulb, watch the plankton
drifting in the fishbowl of my eye, and half my head
is in and out of dreams; a man stands on the iron bridge
and shouts, and points to stars that are not there. How small
he looks from here. The clowns are crawling on the roof
and laughing in the chimney. Pigeons flap in empty rooms,
the starfish hands of children wave through clouds reflected
in the windows of a long white car, and on a beach, a woman
rolls in the surf, an arm flops from a floral-patterned sling,
and snow is falling on the tracks, and on the sea,
covering all the broken wooden boats
in silence. And someone on the wall calls out
to ask me what I know. But I am gone, already.
The central heating clanks all through the house.
The tumble drier is growling, down in the kitchen,
and in the next room, someone moves about, and sings along,
off-key, with The Seekers’ Greatest Hits.
I am a child, sitting up in bed, pressing
my ear to the wall.