We Didn't Go to the Cinema in Those Days

1. Wardrobe

Overhead, my companions
the coat-hangers knock together
when the door opens, reminders
of the clothes that hung here.

The smell of clothes has long gone.
The only smell is wardrobe.
There's a drawer down below.
Maybe someone sleeps in the drawer

but if they do, I can't hear them.
There's a shelf above the coathangers.
A top hat once lived there with a story to tell.
I'd listen to his story over and over

his voice as deep as the black of his silk.
I don't remember a word he said.


Inside the iceberg, weightless,
ice at my back, underfoot, pressed
on my chest, face, I watch the stars
come and go, blue sky, ocean.
Ice blood in veins. No space

for my hair to grow, eyes to close.
Nowhere to go. I dream that, melting,
paper-thin, it cracks and ice-water runs
down my face, I catch my breath, lungs
expand, gurgle, bubble... No.

Ships pass, point me out. Tourists.
Best-kept secret. Look children,
a man in the ice, trapped, kept fresh.
Old-fashioned clothes. See his face, light
in his eyes. He can see us. He's alive.

3. Steeple

I lean against the steeple
two hundred feet above the ground.
A pigeon lands on my head.
The fire brigade have gone.
No more children throwing stones.

As thin as the spire and completely still
I forget to breathe and rarely sleep.
I like it best when the sun goes down.
I stare at the stars like I'm one of them.
I forget who I am.

(In which Kevin learns to breathe out of water)

I'm dry, dead leaf dry. Crisp. Twig-lung.
Kindling. You could burn me. Strike a match –
. The need to be underwater,
to doze, to climb out at night and sing.
Part of me sleeps. Waterworld, bubbledamp.
If only our bed could be damp.

I lie in the bath, submerge. Her key in the door...
I'm in the bath. / You're always in the bath. /
I can't help it. / I know.
She adds more hot,
takes off her clothes, climbs in…
She towel-dries her hair as I climb out,
pull on my shirt. You're still wet… / I know.

The shirt clings to my back, jeans to my legs,
water drips down my face, down my neck.

He sings in his sleep, stares into space
and sees water. We have wet towels
on radiators, water boiling in the kitchen.
Condensation streams down the walls.
I wake in the night, hear him in the bath.
I can't build the fire or he sits in the corner,
feet in a bowl, shaking. I have to watch him
in the rain, he'd take off his clothes if I let him.

I love sound in air world. Music. Air vibrates
and carries it; water muffles, wraps round.
You couldn't hear music this clear in water.
Riversound is different: lovely, but you
always hear that water is there. Bubble. Sloosh.
Above water sunlight is purer. Though air
is so thin I get dizzy. It's too easy to breathe...

Street noise. People. Try not to catch their eye.
Remember not to stare. Do like she says:
hands in pockets, eyes on pavement…
Sudden rain. Delicious wet. Rain on pavement,
rain on cars, streaming down the gutter,
gurgling in the drain. I stand on a corner,
eyes closed, rain on my face. She's here –
she takes my arm, pulls me along, talks,
keeps me awake so that people don't see,
people don't guess. Hair soaked, clothes.
No scarf, no hat, let it pour, soak through.
Don't wring me out, let me stay wet
so that when you touch me water comes.
Rain makes me happy and floods are a reminder.
Rainbow, moonlight on water, moon glow.

     © Cliff Yates 2016