"Watch me"
she said,
"walk into the dark."

She said that sometimes
when her depression
got to her
and it seemed
that the dark tunnel
she was entering
was without light
or purpose.

Sometimes I walked
into my own dark
and go a different path
from hers.

"No hell is
quite the same"
she said as if
she'd discovered
a new phrase
or philosophy.

Her darkness and mine
went by different routes
and lasted different
periods of time.

We'd watch snow fall
outside the big window.

Music oozed
from the ward radio.

She said she wanted a smoke
so I lit up two cigarettes
for us and we stood
in silence smoking.

A plump nurse rushed past
like a hippo seeking a mate.

"Must be a way out
of this darkness"
she said
spewing smoke.

I guessed there might,
but knew not
how or where.

The snow fell
thick and slow
out there
outside the window.
Patients in a psychiatric hospital in 1971
"What's the matter with you?"
Netanya said.

She always asked that
if she was in a good
over the top mood.

"Nothing the matter with me"
I said. Although there was
deep down not knowing
how to get out of the rut
I was in, but not seeing
at that moment a way.

"Well you don't look it"
she said.

She gazed at herself
in the dressing table mirror,
applying lipstick.

"Will you be long?"
I said.

She gazed at me
in the mirror:
"No longer than usual."

I wondered why
it took women so long
to get ready to go out.

"See you downstairs"
I said and left her
to her make over job
and walked down the stairs.

Her kids were watching TV
glued to some show.

Her elder daughter
was in her own room
playing records.

I lit a cigarette
and stood by the back door
looking at the evening sky.

She would be down soon
in that red dress
and made up
to look younger.

I could hear the pop music
from her daughter's
record player.

Some where over the sky
a plane went off
to some place bright
and warm.

Here it was a dark evening
brewing a wet storm.
A man and his wife and falling apart 1980
It was a day
when Enid's old man
was in a good mood

and she was allowed out
with me (her old man
even smiled at me)

so we got a bus
to the South Bank
and sat and watched the tennis

seeing the ball go
from one side of the court
to the other

and Enid said
about her mother
how since her father

had been in a better mood
she smiled more
and that last night

she even laughed
with her father
over some show

on the TV
nothing lasts
I said

next week he'll be back
to usual way and mood
and beat you both

Enid said
she guessed I was right
but to enjoy it

while it lasted
and we went and stood
by the Thames

watching boats
and tugs pass by
eating the ice creams

I bought with money
my mother gave me
and seeing a big ship

moving along
off to a rough sea.
A boy and girl in London in the 1950s
She was quite a stunner,
Henry says, least you
thought so, out there

on the sportsfield
between double maths
and afternoon biology,

sitting with her legs
tucked under her
on the grass

with other girls,
they departed sniggering
once you came

towards them,
"Benny, didn't think
you'd show,"

she said,
you sat beside her,
secretly sniffed her scent,

taking note
of her small bulbs,
curve of her,

"Parrot kept me in,"
you said,
she related her morning

brain-washing lessons,
lips you wanted
to kiss to a silence,

to fathom her fruits
kind of science,
you watched her

as she spoke,
drinking in
her deliciousness,

knowing the bell
would ring
calling time

and no kiss
nor hold,
what a crime.
Harry relates Jenny's take on the stunning girl in 1962
Harry dozed in a chair,
hands across his pounch,
fingers interlocked,
eyelids sealed
to a sleep.

Martha sewed socks.
The daughters mended shirts.
The sons worked
the cloth to a suit.

Harry dreamed
of sunny fields,
high corn,
hot sun,
a stream to fish
or bath whatever.

Martha needled thread
through the cotton socks
sewing away holes.

Daughters sitting by the fire
mended collars
with a neat stitch.

Sons in the workshop
cut cloth and sewed.

Dinner cooked
on the stove
with a slow measure,
steam rising

Harry's fingers unlocked
and imitated work,
moving in his skilled sleep.

Martha watched
the rise and fall
of his chest,
dozing himself
to a rest.
Harry Dozed
First sight love stuff,
Harry says,
least on her part,

you followed after,
first kiss that evening
witnessed by stars

and moon,
others were over
the way singing carols,

she hugged into
the overcoat
against the winter wind,

hugging each other briefly
before others saw,
that time in the long grass

that summer lying
on your backs
talking and kissing,

later when you
drifted apart
with tugs at the heart

and she married another,
never forgotten that time
nor her or words or kisses,

that time her brother
stopped you and said
she'd died from cancer,

numbed you his words,
her image and death
and no answer.
Harry relates of a first sight love
I guess you could pretend
that it was the beginning
and not the end:
end of childhood,
youth and middle age,
that life was sort of endless
never reaching
the last page.

You can imagine
life going on and on
like a constant song,
or like a film set
in a circuitous round
with yesterday's music
as the only sound.

You can think
the unthinkable
in an absurd fashion,
pretend you're some
great lover
with endless passion,
but in the end
it doesn't ring true,
trying to be someone else
who isn't you.

Life is what it is,
no tinted-glasses,
no other place to see
or be in the end,
just who we
really are:
you and the person
I call me.
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