He still comes to stay, after all these years. The same
ponytail, the hem of the full-length coat unfrayed.
We forget he has a key, but not the routine:
the drawing of curtains before he herds us in
to the front room, the clicking of the lock,the wall-
shaking days getting himself installed
in the kitchen, stripping the worktops, burning
the elements of the kettle, the cooker rings ...
the pornographic magazine slipped
under our door as an act of contrition
for waking the children with the gas, the upstairs taps
left running through their dreams. We're ready to crack
by the middle of the second week. We call the police
but no-one comes. Serene with fright, we accede
to his orders to open the curtains and smile
at the postman, the meter reader, the dark-eyed
delivery boy with the oriental takeaways
we cannot afford. Just act normal, he says,
remembering to tell us his one joke,
about Lutherans being afraid to make love
by the window in case people think they're dancing —
this as our blood-pricked fingers are scrawling
whatever happens I love you on the rose-patterned walls.
If only it weren't for the end of the third week
when the flowers start sprouting from his pockets and every
two minutes he's in and out with cups of tea
arguing with a soft-spoken authority
that Schonberg's piano concerto is really no more,
formally, than Haydn mixed in with Brahms.
If only his hands didn't come so alive on granny's
upright, making their point, with such delicacy,
such élan, that the bigger silence in Debussy
should always stay intact whatever the speed.
The world has larger margins than you think,
he says, as he puts on his hat and leaves....