Curtains drawn against late October twilight,
working on verses about burgeoning flocks
of raucous, emerald Ring-necked Parakeets
in the Surrey Hills, I hear the murmur
of girls. It is Halloween. The bell rings.
There is a bevy of neighbours’ daughters –
one with a painted face, all on the cusp
of womanhood – lovely, ingenuous.
From habit, I watch them safely down the street
and then, before I shut the door, look up
at the night sky, craning my neck with wonder.
Cloud obscures all but Jupiter, Mars, Venus.
It would be tempting to believe not merely
in physical forces and chemical
reactions but design and purpose
through the kaleidoscope of the universe –
and in the countless stars’ unheard music.
After supper, I begin another piece:
about the Ghetto in Golden Prague –
with its learning, its music and its art –
which Hitler decreed should be preserved as
a raree show for ‘Judenrein Europa’.
Daily, new stones are placed on the tomb
of Rabbi Judah Levai ben Bezalel,
Talmudic scholar and Kabbalistic mystic,
legendary creator, from Vltava mud,
of The Golem to scourge the anti-semites,
and battler with Azrael, the angel of death,
to protect his only granddaughter.
In the opposite corner of the room
in which I write is an Edwardian
upright piano, an inanimate
companion since my early childhood.
Our granddaughter asks to be lifted
onto the too high stool and tries the notes,
now loud, now soft, with the flats of her hands,
hearing with wonder the unending sounds.