Angela Readman

The Day the Letters Burnt

The day I died I prodded a sunset with a cool poker.

I knocked with a fistful of calmness. Answer.

Open, I walked into your lounge. I heard you

in the kitchen, fill a kettle, guzzle its air.

I sat in your chair, audience of the opposite chair,

a sag in the seat of who last sat on its leather.

I had no wish to fill its mould. I lit a cigarette;

The end fumed and glowed, the ashtray, Pompei.

I cleared my initials in your ash, scoured them out.

The tea tray was a raft. You sat cups on the table,

an eclipse of coffee rings stained the wood,

sets of overlapping Russian wedding bands.

I sat, easy, my smile was a tail pinned to a donkey;

you thought you put it there. Blind. You returned

to the kitchen for awfully trivial snacks. I strolled

around the room, our museum, I appointed you to life

as my curator, reading over the lines of my mouth.

I kissed the cold bust of a dead composer, hard.

Red for you to find on a cheek later, my lips

on marble stamped an undelivered letter.

You put down a polka dot plate, a crescent of cookies.

And I drained my cup and looked at my watch;

its glass eye clocked me back. I walked into the hall.

We did no dance now, sorry steps, a coy side to side

around how neither of us knew how to say goodbye.

I didn’t hang on the hook your gaze, a coat in wait

for arms to fill me, bend me into the shape of a girl.

But, for an instant, I felt my spine, dominoes,

if you stood too close ,vertebrae tipped by breath,

a word knocking my resolve down. I recalled my scarf,

left on the chair-arm, a ribbon of poppies

gift-wrapped where I last sat. I didn’t go back.

Light as a woman late for the theatre, I stepped out

towards courting night, a suede glove at the door.

Outside, our breath surprised us, ghosts dressing up

in each other’s clothes. Everything was smoke,

bonfires, a neighbour was burning his papers.

I spread my fingers, ash landed like snowflakes,

all our letters, kisses, no two quite the same.

I almost felt sorry for you watching me drive away.

On the step of the house, I saw a boy locked out, a loser

of a game only time may let you know we ever played.

Angela Readman © 2012