Somewhere between Helsinki and Talinn
(lost between the sheets of popular songs)
drifts the elopement that might once have been
planned in Sidney Scarborough’s music shop. Wings
of fantasy lifted her, quavers shook
her Hull back streets: to skate on Baltic ice
became her dream. Her sailor would be back,
his unsigned vow inked on a fugue by Liszt.
He left a set of Finnish spoons, a pledge,
unfinished business. Maybe he did mean
to gild his Lily. Or perhaps his badge
was marked on kids from Stockholm to Stettin.
There’s no name, only handwriting – a mask.
A war broke out. There’s no one left to ask.
You might draw a basking snake,
curled within the curl of a branch
or the flicking tail of a ringed lemur
on your shoulder in Madagascar;
your pen might take that curve,
those unprepossessing angles,
unnerve them into some fantastic creature:
a post-rock poster for a band
thumping and droning on Icelandic shores
where prone people let the beat
wash like a tide that knows no odds
between now and forever;
or, apocalyptic, you might conjure
waves of hangers just like this, twists
of wire spiralling like triffids, bursting
from dry-cleaners’ shops to seize the streets…
but I remember coats. The black, the green
and especially the red one, a gash,
a splash of smile against the grey
like the way you shone
the day we climbed up Beamsley Beacon,
saw Yorkshire glow in wagtail grey and yellow
and we made snow angels.
In the afternoon we found a village café
strangely stuffed with model railway parts
for children to dream up new worlds
and dads to condense theirs
in attic rooms that maybe look like yours
with unused hangers in a recess
of might-have-beens. I hope they know
that miles away someone a bit like you
is adventuring, has got their coat, their smile.