for Melissa Green
The knot in your old oak table pulses in synch with the lighthouse
storm warnings; Cato – draped like night around your neck – smells
of salt water, gold leaf, barnacles, the blunt-sharp rocks of proximity
and doubt. He purrs in metronomic lighthouse time. The tip
of your fountain pen dips into black ink, shakes off the dark, ignites
a constellation of stars on the page. “I always write,” you say, “on yellow
paper; let it be as close to ochre as anyone can find, in honour of Lascaux’s hooves,
Nuri’s song lines, Altamira’s bison thundering; yellow paper, with dark blue
veins in the page to stop me trembling; ancient tributaries mapping my way.”
Away now from that ancient shipwreck of a house, that living catacomb – the unsafe
ark - words fly from your pen; those not already here, climb your apartment
steps, find their way in. Daily they come and never leave - always with you
and life in mind. Like the torches that illuminated the first cave paintings
they peel back the shadows: inside the page, lanterns are waiting to be lit;
the vaulted ceilings of Medieval churches; fresco figures beckoning.
Lovers meet at dawn. In silence they greet each other’s deep,
forbidden places. “I see,” you say. “I see,” I say. Your old oak table
has the presence of an altar, the rounded belly and arched back
of a much-loved cave. It’s a secret and a sacred stage.
The tea in our cups not tea at all, but terracotta rain
gathered in a downpour, shot through with molten gold.