Veronica


This is a new piece yet it has been percolating in my mind for a very long time now.  As the title suggests it was inspired by the song of the same name written by the incomparable Elvis Costello which has always struck this cord deep inside me, which is not that surprising considering it speaks of time and memory and the mysterious way we drift through time.  These themes have dominated a large part of my work, both in those pieces that are personal as well as those that just explore it from other points of view.  I guess I am just fascinated by how time and place can be so very subjective when they are supposed to be firmly objective, how we really do exist all at once in all the moments of our lives, even the ones we haven’t lived yet and how if the line is blurred just right we can live in the past just as fully and completely as we can the now, which is supposed to be impossible, but it happens.  This is kind of about that, that blurring, the way our minds can make the here and now distant while the moments that preceded become what is vital and so very real.  As always, I don’t know how well I succeeded in this and I will let you all be the judge.  This piece grew, as they always do, between the first lines which I had firmly in mind and the last stanza which I had also pretty much written but changed a bit as the middle unfolded itself like so much origami under my pen.  We shall see if it told the story I wanted it to in the end.  Cheers all, enjoy.

 

Even on the best days

Her eyes are obscured by clouds

Their sunlight dimmed

Hide and seek playing

Tag with the coattails

Of now and the fragile

Clinging webs of long ago then.

 

They think she is forgetting

It’s not that at all

Rather she is still living

In the same house

Just in a different room

Aware of the conversations,

Distant gramophone voices

Hissing and popping vaguely

Unimportant to the progress of her feet

Wending the corridors and disused rooms

She remembered remembering once

They way the waking remember dreams.

 

The corner they usually put her in

Seems so pitiful

Small, dwarfed to caricature

Unable to ever really contain the whole of her

Bird boned, delicate, her body

Veils only so very thinly

The way paper can be folded in on itself to hide

All of the stories written on it,

Translucent flesh towering, monolithic

Looms around this tiny shape

Masquerading as an old lady

In a matchstick rocking chair.

 

Her hands lay open

In her lap

A library rich in volumes,

Codices, glosses

All the palimpsests of pain,

Encyclopedias of joy

Sonnets to loss, odes to love

Instruction manuals detailing toil

Hardships, lessons in quiet

Terrible strength

All that could ever be hoped for or dreaded,

Scored deep into palms

Cupping sunlight.

 

She lives in photographs now

Days at the beach

Ice cream still sticky on her chin

Lovers’ breath hot expectant

Lingers deep in her lungs

She wears every touch

A dress of fingerprints

Tangled reels of film

At her feet

Projected in gold green shimmering

Shadow play drift

Passing through the lens of summer.

 

Children’s laughter

Playing like Cole Porter,

Other soundtracks of sobs,

Click, clack spinning

Silver smoke flashes making the darkness

Move start stop halt jerk motion

The whole world a white sheet

Hanging still in mid air

A magic casement

More real and now

Than those poor sepia creatures

Out there that crackle crisp

As forgotten leaves

Crunching under foot

As they wheel her

From one corner to another.

 

Sometimes the clouds break

A face parts them

Clear as the sun

Yet far more sad

Old and seamed

     (Far too old for her really,

     Young, pretty lass she is, but she respects her elders

     So she listens and sits politely

     Enduring his attentions)

Handsome none the less

She smiles winsomely

     (Her mother always said

     She had the kind of smile

     That puts a warm, fluttering bird

     Of joy in the breast of sorrow)

This worn out old man

Never seems to feel the quick beating wings,

He just holds her hands

In the soft folds of his

     (At least they are probably her hands)

So impossibly old,

Yet it’s like that was where

They were always supposed to be.

 

It’s so strange

She thinks sometimes

How clouds can part for

Such an overcast face

How he seems to bring the rain

Inside with him sometimes

She can feel it falling

Warm and soft

On the backs of a stranger’s hands

That are probably hers.

 

 

 

 

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2 Responses to “Veronica”

  1. really beautiful! i loved so many lines and your descriptions – “Distant gramophone voices/Hissing and popping vaguely”.

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