November

Reading was important to you. Unhurried
Your eyes swallowed up sentences like
Spool upon ribbon. Scenes unfolded on an inside screen,
Shaded in each frame, the drama deeper
Than seeing shades unfolding scenes.

Every time you read it felt restful
And enticing. The afternoon opened
When you dissected Graham Greene’s Henry Scobie
To get to the Heart of the Matter. Your head
Wedged between my body and lap, there

In the drawing-room, I sat uncoiling pictures
Between pages in my own serene hands.
Time rolled on. I found myself now and then
Hearing the amplified grave ticking of the tall-case
Clock, the sound that, as I listened and not, ceased

Or recovered, without departing. Looking up
At the calm of mirror-glass and sunstruck pendulum
I watched every detail to record every moment
Until the whole of that November day was processed
To memory: when the room began to look sulphur

Shadows spill across the cream carpet
Like strokes of paint on pale canvas, where,
Out in the enfeebled light, birds hang motionless
In narrowing circles, the quick swollen
Sky giving the illusion of retrograde. But you read

Implacably on, leaning closer, and held my hand
Spreading the book with the other.
As both have now sunk below earth to be held
By interminable darkness my hand narrates on
Inches from your novel playing back

Your bearded profile, sloped into the light,
With rapt immobility above your long brown arms,
Playing back to return us to the air we had been dislodged,
To the concentrated quiet displaced by the
Concentrated stillness I cannot kiss and distract.

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