Your House - Poem by jim hogg
I pass your old house sometimes, in the car,
or walking with friends, and I sneak a glance
at the front door where we stood some nights,
or up at the middle window. The light
bounces from the pane, strikes a deeper flame,
fades, and stars crash, heavy with memory,
and that gorgeous wound is open again.
And sometimes it seems there was nothing else,
except “what should have been”, but for folly
and the currents that focussed my blindness.
But not often. The tides of life flow on.
I know where we stand, and why we’re there.
It’s the truth of a crowded youth, where,
clarity never showed, never played a part
and where, for all the sins of history,
love alone might never have been enough.
The sharp roughcast has been painted over.
The old fence has been replaced and the doors
and windows too. All that lingers there still
is a story that hasn’t been told, and,
it’s not the fear of forgetting now
that sometimes imprisons an aging mind.
It’s the hints of heaven, the reminders
of the heights that promise reaches,
of the heights we’re prone to fall from.
Up the street, past the light at Maggie’s gate -
where we often would meet just after eight -
I wander again round that endless bend
of that village on the brink of the world,
mind bridging the years as you hover -
as memory tells it now of that first walk -
on a dark winter’s night in sixty seven:
speed talking, speed floating through the old quarter.
Did I confuse latin and french you asked?
Someone passed us then, barely visible,
opposite McGhee's garage, and was gone,
And you and I, engrossed, walked on and on...
Our old school looms like a primitive force
bustling with kids with the same kind of dreams.
I walk through another age, a stranger
looking over valleys of flowing change,
devoid of signs of us. I superimpose
an older world beyond the rusting gates
and see a satchel on your shoulder,
mischief run wild on your smiling face,
and for a lost moment get the urge
to raise a trembling hand and wave fondly,
to see you wave back, from there or somewhere,
with no commitment or small talk required.
A wave across the distance would do.
Your garden fence is temptation to me.
To stop and lean, to look up for your eyes;
to look over cool clear winter nights again,
when all that echoed were two quiet voices.
You kept my letters in a drawer up there,
behind the middle window, fermenting
until finally they flooded your heart.
Facing the wrong way at that moment
I missed the flush-through into the soft blue.
I missed the moment of the end of longing.
I held you and beheld it unseeing,
just when nothing else truly mattered;
though the tumult and heat of the circling world
was bearing down fast on our village lives.
And one night, my fingers through your jet hair -
early in June on the last of the moon -
you said “what is it that’s wrong? ” and I knew
that you wanted more then than I could give.
A bullet of silence ripped through the dawn.
It was on my lips, but the words rebelled.
With sunlight just over the rim of the Earth,
it slowed and began to turn the wrong way..
I stood there, eyes closed, head on your shoulder
with my heart beating in vain against yours,
simply afraid of the strength of a love
I wasn’t quite ready to cope with yet,
and so began the retreat from our love.
I turned my collar to its beauty then,
and we sheltered in the arms of others.
The wind and rain of the next two winters
weathered our resolve, and almost saved us,
though words were rare, glances less, and distance barred
the ambush lying in wait within us.
Warm words of hope, littering the pages,
drew us together for one last attempt,
on a cold sunday night before Christmas
down at the corner on Hamilton Road.
But, deluded by youth I wriggled free,
sure-footedly dancing myself into hell,
against my heart and against my will.
You’d crossed the bridge to honour the pledges
of a million years of preparation,
risked one last flight to Jerusalem,
to hear them denied in a pulse of ego
by a fool on the verge of paradise -
complacent in the comfort of your lips -
pretending he’d have to think about it.
It was time for you to leave; you were right.
Disbelief bit deeply into my bones
and settled there for a lifetime it seemed.
A wiser kid would have stuck with the truth,
would have honoured that love with whatever it took,
would have cried after you down on his knees,
but... I didn't...
The wheel of fate makes the slightest of turns
and all of our lives are changed forever.
What if all of it was written after all
and all that broke down was fated to fail?
Were slants of starlight the shaping force
writing the future into our eyes?
I was inside your house years afterwards,
sat in the front room where you used to sit,
and the house was you, and the air was you.
I talked and looked around, acting normal;
breathing you deeply, gulping down failure,
careening though time to your father’s voice
echoing from his chair beside the hall door.
He was gone too, nearly ten years before.
And back and forth your brother and I
chatted away, though I was barely there.
Standing now outside Milligan’s old house,
I stare at the woodland that hides so much:
the long lost road that wasn't lost then,
the old swing tree our love was carved upon,
the railway line that brought us the world,
and get lost in something I can’t break down.
Uprooted from the village to the coast,
the wind through those trees called me back 'home',
seemed to mark for good our time and place.
From anywhere, any time, I can clearly see
them bend before a surging southerly,
and hear its lonely sighing through the leaves:
a whispering song that reminds me to call
a number I can't forget.
On the table here there’s a photograph
of you and I when time was just a word,
when the future was an endless sky.
Now starlings gather on the autumn wind
and raindrops trickle down the window pane
to a song you mentioned in a letter:
it went “I want you here to have and hold
as the years go by and we grow old and grey”
and other piercing sentimentalities.
And at last, they’ve cut me off at the pass -
the patient soldiers of love and regret -
as I look and listen too many times
to make up now for not listening then
for not having heard what your heart clearly said.
I should have seen it so much sooner,
before the limousines and lace, before
I turned my eyes and ears against the truth
beaten out on bells and endless circles.
And in loss I made you my nirvana
leaving me as blinded by the past now
as I once was by the future.
There was so little space between our small chairs
back in our senior primary school class.
And you were so slim and you moved so fast,
and faster still with a table tennis bat
when the ball would almost disappear,
blurring from sight beneath locked eyes,
minute after minute, blind to the world
that one day would bring our game to a close..
But everything wears away in the end,
as the planet keeps on taking its toll.
As you and I fall behind the waves,
now your kids and mine are older by far
than the two kids who left Dunragit Hall
together, after dancing to Cracklin Rosie.
Comments about Your House by jim hogg
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