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.ColumbineGolders GreenHarlequinPantaloonPierrotslapstickthe Camps