HARLEQUIN AND COLUMBINE


The war was over. My father was dead.

Judith was eight, I was four. Her father,

who survived the Camps, had come here like a ghost.

She and I played in the bushes at the flats.

Our game was hiding-from-the-Germans.

When it got too cold to play, I went

to the panto at Golders Green Hippodrome.

 

I cannot remember which story it was:

no doubt, Harlequin, aided by Clown,

seduced Columbine from Pierrot to Pantaloon’s

impotent rage; no doubt, Pantaloon

was bearded, long nosed and avaricious –

or in drag, and Harlequin a buxom girl.

 

I cannot remember who I went with.

My mother, I guess, perhaps Judith –

but not her father. I can see his eyes

haunted as he stood lost in their hallway.

 

I do remember the wallpapering sequence,

that classic, silent, slapstick routine.

I was in the stalls, four or five rows

from the orchestra pit. I can see now

the deadpan pratfalls, the bucket teetering,

the ladder collapsing, the wallpaper

enveloping. In the glare from the stage,

I remember my uncontrollable laughter,

soundless in all that noise.

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  1. #1 by David Cracknell - December 27th, 2011 at 19:40

    “Harlequin and Columbine” – “I can see his eyes / haunted as he stood lost in their hallway.” I like the powerful memories across generations and the ambiguities (?) – e.g. of the hallway (of the Golders Green house or of his eye sockets?) and that imposed voicelessness or comparative silence of children and young people among overwhelming adult self-confidence and self-preoccupation – “…soundless in all that noise.”

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