PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST


The hardback quarto exercise book opens
at ‘Funny Valentine’, an unfinished,
blank verse piece – full of Auden, Larkin, Yeats –
in thick-nib fountain pen on feint ruled lines.
Four decades old and more – and pristine:
‘Today, at best, brings scented, satin hearts,
Numb messengers of somebody’s desires…’

I can see the back room in the shared flat:
sagging bed, faded armchair, torn carpet,
wobbly table; I’d brought a large ashtray,
a glass fronted bookcase and a small, handmade
Chinese cabinet; a tv blared upstairs.
Through the sash window stuck fast with paint
was the littered garden – out of sight and
sound, all of Liverpool, swinging city.

I google Lorenz Hart’s lyrics – ‘Your looks
are laughable, unphotographable,
Yet you’re my favorite work of art’- and hear
Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald.
The cabinet – carved drawers filled now with years
of love – was a woman’s gift to a man
coming of age. But I was a boy, full
of fears and words. ‘Stay little valentine, stay…’
Borne on the leafy fretwork of the doors,
two gilded, lacquered kingfishers in flight,
sun catching on their iridescent wings,
fall together into oblivion.

 

 

Note: the poem was one of the first pieces to be published on the site in April 2009  and has been subsequently published in ‘A Jar of Sticklebacks’ – http://www.armadillocentral.com/general/a-jar-of-sticklebacks-by-david-selzer

 

 

 

 

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