No 17 - May 2002
As entered the forest the birds awoke and sang, and the first light climbed in the branches overhead. Soon I passed the outer buildings of the village. The trees seemed taller nearing the centre of the forest, until they stood still around the clearing and the hill; the roots even turned outward from the sunlit spot, reluctant to incise the soil, not wanting to intrude.
- Passing through the town to get here I remembered the small street full of interesting looking shops and that one small place selling great varieties of sweets and old comics and toys. And most miraculously of all, the tiny tables and chairs where you could sit and drink coffee, whilst looking out the window at the people walking past.
Pausing in the light of the clearing briefly I moved back into the forest and quickly found the hut I was looking for. I hoped I was not too early, coming with the rise of dawn, the sun, the bird song above and around me, the grass twitching up, shaking of dew drops, everything imperceptibly coming to life.
- Walking down the street, as yet unaware of the sunshine café structure just around the corner, walking without apparent aim, trying not to appear lost, but hopelessly lost I was, all I knew was from the midget woman I had passed who said to just keep going on. Of course at this juncture in time I was not heading for the hut in the forest that then I knew nothing about, I was looking for the Bank, and then a record store, but I started to sense some magic around me, and the window display (windows of tight dark wooden frames, and scratched designs of abstractness) poked out from the corner of my eye, and it was then that I came across the café.
- In the café the atmosphere of the place drew into me, and I felt the adoration with which the merchandise there was displayed, old toys and frail ornaments nostalgic as they were beautiful and curious. Such things as a model tripod, a single Alice-in-Wonderland chess piece (knight), old books I could hardly remember reading like Tim and the Hidden People .... and the rows upon rows of sweets, so many colours, a rack of clothing, shirts of the perfect material, dark shades of a soft woollen comfort .... I sat down at a table, after buying a copy of the Tripods Trilogy and some of the final instalments of Tim and the Hidden People, where I recognised Tobias the cat and the Storm Witches, and (I think it was) the Stump People, greeting each rediscovery with delighted sighs, and sips of good strong black coffee.
The man standing in the doorway of the hut was older than I had imagined, but he did smile, if maybe in a slightly strict manner.
Yes, he said. “What is it you want?”
I cleared my throat, and felt quite afraid.
“This may be strange,” I started.
“Yes,” he replied. “We don’t get many strangers in these parts
“Sir,” I said more firmly, “It is about your daughter
- As I settled in my seat at the small round table, engrossed in reading and drinking coffee, it was growing dark outside but everything in the town seemed inclined towards late if not twenty-four hour opening times, so I was not worried, and thought nothing of returning home. Soon, the café filled, and many colourful customers came in, browsed amongst the toys, picked out sweets, ran their hands through the racks of clothing, some sitting down with coffee or another beverage, and soon all the tables were taken, and spare chairs were beginning to be occupied.
I noticed her, I think the second she came in, maybe even unconsciously my eyes caught her passing by the window. I recall, indeed I know, as a fact, what she looked like that late evening. She wore a long pink-red dress, that flowed down over black boots letting just the tips peep through. Her cardigan that was knitted in a kind of lacy manner was black and its sleeves were long so that the tips of her fingers only could be seen. I get an ache in my whole body just writing this account of her, tears are just beyond the eyes: her hair was dyed bright pink, and cut as a bob. This might sound like it clashed or it was in bad taste but believe me please, it was perfect. Her face was like that of a fairy in a children’s book, blushed cheeks, dark green eyes. She had a half confident, half unsure way of carrying herself, tumultuous to watch. I instantly sensed some kind of story in her, a secret or two inside that sacred head. She went over to the counter and purchased a hot chocolate with a mountain of cream swirled on the top, and, as destiny had so determined, and as you have probably already guessed, the empty chair at my table was the only one left, and I moved the books a little, and watched tentatively as she walked across to me, holding her hot chocolate, and with a shy smile and a brushing of her hair with a finger, she sat down.
The man was too old, I thought, and when I mentioned his daughter a great fear came Into his eyes.
“I am the father of two beautiful young daughters, and I beg of you please,’ (he bowed with a withered grace, and I felt paused in my efforts) “Come back,” he said, faltering into his house, and rubbing at one of two rings on his fingers. “Come back later, I must take a bath.”
So I waited outside the hut, and when the weather became warmer, stretched out on the grass of the clearing.
- In the café she was like a perfect doll, and shy yet repsonsive in equal measures. We both expressed our fascination with the place we sat in, drinking coffee, but when I asked her about her family, she seemed to back away somewhat, and her face blushed as she said:
“Well, my mother died a long time ago, and I can’t really remember her - Oh now, it’s quite alright….” she said as I murmured some embarrassed apology. “So, well, my father has been looking after us - oh yes I have a twin sister .... my father has been looking after us….” her voice stumbled away to some distance; my hand sought hers on the table-top. She looked up at me with almond green eyes, smiling a little too forcibly, as though she felt she must; but her hand tightened over mine, and we retained that contact through the night, as we gently discussed other things, music, literature, how life had been and how it may be. In the end, I obtained her address, and she excused herself because she had a job that occupied her in the night, and she must get back, she said. We arranged tomorrow night to meet again, and then I sat back and watched her leave, dress flowing long and slender. We waved as she passed by the window, hesitating a moment, and then sharing a laugh.
- We met many times thereafter, always that same café, and often the same table. My knowledge of nostalgic literature grew, and I established likings for certain sweets I had never eaten before. So it was the last time. We were drinking our drinks, my coffee, her hot chocolate, as was usual. We had never kissed, never really felt the need to do that, or anything that would follow. Though sometimes our hands would touch on the table-top, and our knees may have been nestling close on certain occasions. Perhaps it was the atmosphere of a child’s life that permeated the place, and I had remarked once to her: “But we are all children still, don’t you think….At least I want to be.”
She had smiled sadly at this, and raised a mug, though didn’t drink from it, and said:
“I would rather forget my childhood days, I think. That’s probably why I come here, so I can feel how a child may have felt, know how if it had been so
“Your childhood wasn’t a good time?” I asked as softly as I could. She lay down her mug, and shook her head.
“You know,” she said. “My mother wasn’t around, and my father….my father….” Again there was a falter and a heavy silence. It was at this time I noticed a ring on one of her fingers. It looked very small for her finger, holding on in some kind of pincer grip that would not let go. I had the impression of insects, and their mandibles snapping shut to hang forever where they lay, and their relatives squirming over them to get at the captured food.
I questioned her about the ring, who was it from I asked, with a slight uneasiness inside my tongue as I said those words. She didn’t answer, and instead small tears started to fall upon the table. I handed her a tissue, but she let it drop untouched to the floor. Her hand, though, clung to mine tightly, shaking a little In frustration and anger, slight motions of a banging up and down. Then she stood up, wiping her eyes, leaving.
“I’m sorry.” she said, “I really have to go now. I may not be able to meet you again for a while.’ And, as she made her way to the door, she turned round, ran up to me, and kissed my cheek and then, for an instant, my lips met hers. Then she left, into the night, running, in fact, across the street, into the night that had begun to shed rain. I resolved then and there to go to her house that very approaching morning, because never had it been like this .... Now, already, even though I had not slept with her, she had become what I was proud to call ‘My lover.’
I fell asleep in the sun, and when I woke up I felt it was late enough for me to return to the hut where the old man lived. I walked over the sun-soaked grass, and around me the birds were continuing their music as I stepped towards the now shadowed walls of the hut, and knocked at the door. This time, no-one answered me, and I pushed slightly and the door swung open, into musty darkness. Dust swam away into the sunlight outside.
(How could this be? I loved his daughter, was it too much .... I remember thinking at the time. Now, upon the realisation, I was truly overcome with a sick and shocked sensation.)
“My father likes to read,” was the only thing she ever said about him, “Books on child psychology, mainly, and the treatment of abused children….” Again a falter. A delicate placement of the pink hair behind pierced ear.
I made my way in the darkness, calling out names and general enquiries of greeting. I felt great foreboding, and thought maybe I would catch the man stepping naked from the bath. but instead I found him fully clothed, in the library. My Lover’s husband and his two wives were dead in his library, and he had taken the effort, maybe moments before the hanging, to slightly shift the copies of his favourite books for easier recognition.
- 10th Muse
- Angel Exhaust
- Blithe Spirit
- Brando's hat
- Brittle Star
- Cannon's Mouth, The
- Coffee House, The
- Dream Catcher
- Floating Bear, The
- French Literary Review, The
- Frogmore Papers, The
- Global Tapestry
- Grosseteste Review
- Homeless Diamonds
- Interpreter's House, The
- Journal, The
- Lamport Court
- London Magazine, The
- Modern Poetry in Translation
- Monkey Kettle
- Neon Highway
- New Welsh Review
- North, The
- Obsessed with pipework
- Oxford Poetry
- Painted, spoken
- Paper, The
- Pen Pusher Magazine
- Poetry Cornwall
- Poetry London
- Poetry London (1951)
- Poetry Nation
- Poetry Review, The
- Poetry Salzburg Review
- Poetry Scotland
- Poetry Wales
- Private Tutor
- Purple Patch
- Rain Dog
- Reach Poetry
- Review, The
- Rialto, The
- Second Aeon
- Seventh Quarry, The
- Smiths Knoll
- Strange Faeces
- Tabla Book of New Verse, The
- Tolling Elves
- Ugly Tree, The
- Wolf, The
- Yellow Crane, The