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White Jigsaw


You come here with a jigsaw

the colour of clouds,

tranquil, like milk in alcohol,

but filled with the brilliant

white of sunlight.


You’re going to let me down

and leave me flat.


The mist at Bamburgh’s lifting:

across the long sands

the tide is riffling a tune.

Three buckets and spades,

waiting. Maud, Lily and Kate.

Drop that and get on deck.

You’re wearing a ring

in the daft shape of a duck.


Meticulous, tetchy,

your fingers are filled with string, you’ve been

shopping for Christmas

the year after the year

after next.


Wake up, I’ve got something

to say to you. Stay with me.

You’re everywhere and nowhere baby,

that’s where you’re at.


We play The Birthday Cakewalk

by Russ Conway, at 78 r.p.m.

and race round the chesterfield

laughing like loons.


Our boat nudges through weed

in the jungle shade. Our faces

are streaked with mud. We screech

at the leeches, the leeches.

Both of us are nominated

for Oscars.


Throw the dice, and move

the boat, the dog, the ship:

monopoly, totopoly,

tri-tactics. The games

will persist, days, weeks,

months and years.


You laugh like a drain,

and clap your hand to your head

like a pirate.


I’ve got something to say

that’ll cause you pain.


Guess what, you ask.

I’ll be losing my eye,

I’m pregnant. I’ve landed

on Mayfair.


You’re like our grandmother,

lying there serene, on

the white bed in Bart’s.

There is a twinkle

in your eye

the size of a laugh.


Clare, the last thing you said

to me was

Night Night Daddy.

There is a Dégas ballerina

dancing above your bed.

The jigsaw sits on the table,

neat and tidy,

as with consummate skill

you fill each space,

your fingers finicking

the spindrift of white

into a wild, inviolate sky.


A glass of wine. Here.

You can’t do that. The light

is intense, it is linen,

it is Antarctic, it is

razzle-dazzling. I

love you. Here it is, Clare, it is

the last, impossible piece.

White Jigsaw

in memory of my sister Clare, who died twehty years ago today (16 March 2001)

16 March 2021


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