If life be uncruel

as a rule he seemed old for his years
he was quiet
and unremarkable
but always living his share of the game
he remembered playing in the street
as a child
on the brim of the wide, dark valley
until nine o’clock
then he went to bed
mother sat sewing below
having such a great space in front  of the house
gave way to a grand feeling of night, of vastness,
and, of terror, which came from the shrieking of a tree
–the anguish of home discord.

nothing now remaining for him to do
when he had finished tinkering
and skimming the headlines
of the paper one last time
he noticed the myriad of dank
smelling newsprint petals
shaken, strewn leaflets about the bed
to the ground from the shed of stars;
and beyond through window
the red glare of the furnaces out beyond the moor
playing like hot breath on clouds

it was night,
but shone like day
he tried closing his eyelids
but the burning red light
passed through to his
dehiscent eyes
ready to burst open once again
like fruits, capsules, anthers
to discharge their leaky contents

tossed and turned on his bed for hours
unable to separate himself from relentless day
it irritated him so that it still peered in
into everything that was his
he got up, groggy
ash faced and swollen
ambled to the parlour
and returned with a bundle of old, abandoned letters
placed carelessly under a flower pot on the hearth
he went and sat down to read
in old moth-eaten arm chair
one such letter was lacey
and still lightly scented of jasmine
it was from Joanna
one her letters from the war
he immediately fell into a dreamlike state
remembering the first time he saw her
as if 50 years ago was yesterday
taking her finger from her mouth
with a little pop,
and looking up at him almost challenging
her soul was naked in her great dark eyes
there was a sort of yearning appeal upon her
he could have kissed her just then
in abstract purity
but he could not kiss her thus, yet
not anymore
the letter held firmly in his hand
seemed to leave no other way
he yearned for her still…
his wife

it gave him a momentary thrill to escape back
back to love
back to a virile time and place
when life mattered, he mattered
when there was only the two of them
oh such a love they had
it worked with such ease
yet with intense concentration
that seemed timeless, forever
he hoped, sitting there
that all his tensions with the current state of affairs
would pass out/drop out of the backdoor entrance
into the garden fountain
flushed away and forgotten.

Terribly deceiving,
the mind can be
it can bewilder and trick
he cursed it for bring her back
from where she is
she cannot come back
from where he is
the only hope is to join her soon
and he is well on his way
a smile broke on his chapped worn lips
the first in some years
as if the facial muscles screamed out
in pain after a decade of disuse
replaced by bony fragmented lines

in purple and green thistle paper
going through the letters one-by-one
mostly written by her hand
looking for the mauve-tinted passages
page after page
sip after sip of tea
for the words that would give him hope
and release from his current condition
yet at the same time would pile on more heaviness
longing to pass out
with the embers in faded light
candlelit wall turned blood red

he got up slowly
raked the embers in the fireplace
trudged back through the parlour
encountering once again the red
reduce yourself
reduce yourself
oh great teacher
the fact that you make him miserable
didn’t he tell you before?
before all your success
but perhaps he is ready
why did you not come prior to now?
why are you so late?
yet grinning to himself
that it wouldn’t be long
if life be an uncruel and natural thing.

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