It is hard work being in this lake,
my clothes always wet and shrinking,
feet and fingers wrinkled like raw steaks.
He comes along, all gold coronets and smooth words,
to swim in my waters and grab a hold of my sword,
takes his trophies from the reedy banks to throw over me.
And I must hoist Excalibur from the waters,
breathe my own brand of magic on the waves,
let my lovely hair stream in the sun just once.
At the river bottom I lie in his arms,
he promises me a world of caves and ice,
I bubble the spawn of freedom over him.
Come, Arthur, claim the prize that is yours,
meet my eyes with a bewildered gaze,
metal clad warrior, I blow kisses down your neck.
DIRK BOGARDE REVISITS VENICE
The first time he travelled, the streets were wider,
and more people came to drink the water,
stroll on the pavements, look at the dark river;
the play was all about dying, and romance,
and obsession. A step on from those wartime
steel cathedrals young Dirk noted down -
he's grown up too far now with nothing
left but the chatter of the tourist trade
and the heart that was Venice, close to tears.
When he visited cities, it was always to look
up at their skylines, the buildings built before
any of us thought of planes or trains:
he rides the gondolas now in the dead of night,
alone under the twisted ghost of the moonshine.
He wouldn't remember his name if you called it
so let him stay there with the boys reclining
and playing, those detached notes of music
advancing. He knows where he'll be happy.
You certainly were one of a kind, a fantastic island of sounds
and visions, a canopy of words, charisma, anger, attraction.
Let me view you over and over on my private movie screen,
revel in your fabulous love of life, your damn-it-all wit.
I watch all the ships rage in their wind-strewn waters,
they call to the earth to unleash its own special spirit.
Not too long ago you waded here, back to nature,
a river god returning to his murky covered throne.
Gone now. And the world rocks silently and surely
in a sparking firecracker of memories of you.
AS ROMANS DO
There was a thin glow of white covering each of our tracks;
we wondered why the sunset bled away into the blue-white sky,
and the horses raged across the rooftops -
we closed our eyes tight and remembered the clatter of the chariots,
the vocal confirmations of the bleak summer breeze across the roses
in the garden, the tight perfume of the herbs under the canopy.
"Who won?" I stop to refill the salt shaker, stoop to kill the weeds
again, listen to the cool clack of the magpies. She kneels down
with urgency, her anxious breath chilling my face.
I shake my head. We watch the last light creep over the horizon.
You were my coffee cup,
I the spoon. Sometimes
we clashed as the hot
liquid scorched us.
We always matched,
a set, one and two.
I'd slosh in the sink
beside you, sometimes
getting left behind
in the dirty whoosh of water.
Your side showed
a hairline crack
I'd brush when milk
and sugar were added.
Then you held tea,
and I remained sadly behind.
Back in the cupboard you'd doze
as I raged in the drawer
above you, tapping
in the hope I'd keep you awake.
Once I was left in you
on the drainer,
stained but content,
we snuggled together.
You were home, a shelter,
cool, sleek, and practical.
© Louise Cole 2003