Author: Paul House

Poetry: Poem for Susie

We wandered over the cemetery
where, looking down from the road,
the old family tombs cracked open
like shells and we moved up the street
towards the market where everywhere
the fat vegetables lay in rows
and the wide city fell away
beneath the steps of a church.

I wanted to stay in France
and not return to London.
When you think how we raced
around in the rain for days
without sleeping and how cold
the morning was with the cocks
calling out across the fields
like lovers, miles from anywhere.

The heavy lorries rolled past us
as, sitting at the roadside,
we huddled in a shapeless coat
and talked and shivered in the wind,
knowing that because we grow
old clumsily and don't recognise
the plans we make for each other,
it was important only to be there.

As there was no smell from the pine
leaves we picked above the graves,
rubbing them between our hands
was important and not the smell,
like singing Happy Birthday loudly
on the metro at one in the morning
because there was no reason not to.
For less I'd give up everything.

And how quickly you decided
this was where you wished to live,
in the backstreets of Saint Germain,
to wake up to the smell of bread
and feet scuffling past on pavements
patterned with squashed fruit and
the shadows of the balconies stretching
across the damp street like combs.

And I, who nonchalantly do
everything wrong, would prefer
the far south, say Seville,
with an emphasis on colour
and a belief in miracles still.
And if it is only the pomp
and flowers of processions,
well, it is a ripening of sorts. 

Then, in the gardens of Versailles,
by the old mill and the relics
of countless good-byes, a blind
corner for mustering a public face
and a lake threaded with trout
were both clinging to the sleeve
of the past, like birds fallen
prematurely from their nests.

Elsewhere, on the tower of a church
beneath the warm sun, with red
dust crusting on the tiles,
a huge stork lumbered into flight
and, with an ungainly sweep
of its wings, tucking its thin
legs beneath the fan of its tail,
it sailed out slowly across the city.

Sample Chapters

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Poem for Anna •  Mandelstam and Mayakovsky •  The Lighted Window  •  Alone with the Years •  The Poet Tires •  Something there is •  La Madrugada •  Postcard of a Golden Retriever •  Shellfish •  Miguel Hernandez •  At the Edge of the Ebro •  Gone •  Playing Cards •  That's Where I Belong •  An Abstract Perfection •  Pearls in a Glass •  Poem for Susie •  Mornings in MalasaƱa •  Leo •  A Garbled Message •  Gnome •  Old Friends •  More About Penguins •  Ghosts •  Poem for Nelly •  Good Friday in Salamanca •  T.L.P. •  What It Is About •  The Blind Man And His Guide •  The Smell Of Winter •  For No Other Reason •  Poem for Linda