The Cruel Room
There are loving walls of old worn brick,
In every shade of red and brown,
Framing, rough-edged, the crumbling joints
Where moss and toadflax tease away
The dust of drying mortar, green for grey.
These walls enfold
Hidden gardens, secret squares,
The smell of mint and lavender
Where children hide and play.
And there is the cruel wall,
Between the little bedroom of my boyhood
And the large, cold chamber where my father died.
There are happy rooms, thick-piled,
With bulging chairs and sofas, cushion-layered,
Where, stretched along the fender, infant thighs
Marble in the winter heat and eyes
Repeatedly re-read the gentle lies
Of nursery stories. Tales
Where life goes on forever,
Heroes thrive and no-one nice
Is damaged, damned or dies.
And there is the cruel room,
With its high ceiling and dripping panes,
Where he clawed for breath and blood ran down his chin.
There are exciting doors, doors that conceal
Those happy transformations, which, at night,
Bring piles of parcels, "Love from Mum and Dad",
Produce a Christmas tree, the scent of pine;
The airing cupboard door, and there, behind,
The little line, where he would hang
His socks - all blue and black -
And wink at us, and warm his back,
And pass the time.
And there is the cruel door,
Where I stood and watched the sheet pulled up,
And a brown stain gripped the white that dabbed his cheeks.
©2000 Mick Stringer
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