The tindered voices crackled in tentative sparks,
then kindled into smoke and ignition.
They soon were ablaze, infectiously feeding the
four-walled hollow with mirth –
raucous and buoyant.
The room was afloat as comedy-jazz took
hold of the senses, running through ears like a
Munro breeze. Sonorous air it felt like.
Yet against this scene he cut an etched silence:
carved in chalk, white shirt,
the blank epicentre of the flapping flame,
a pale stitching in this quilted vibrancy,
his heart burnt to charcoal and dust –
ground to splinter,
his eyes staring out from phoenix ash.
There was, I thought, a winter’s journey
playing there: homeless-wandering.
His mist-swum face and Heine’s ghost,
for linden tree and blossom
borne along the cinder path.
A single seat lay vacant at his side
as minutes before she had pulled the cord,
the laughter too ringing, the music too careless;
the width of her waist had receded to haze.
And out in the air her sockets bent under
the encumbrance of drowning eyes.
Two hearts asunder like a ship’s
Sun-sweltered love adrift now in
vapour; the dregs of salt water
stinging their guts,
and two stricken bodies,
wrenched in twain,
left – oceanless – to drown in themselves.
And all the while – face set, frame rigid –
he was drenched in Jazz and laughter,
and the echoes dissolved
and swam to her.