About Time Too

COAT HANGER

Pegging out shirts on my first-floor balcony,
I happen to notice a white, wire coat hanger
dangling from one low bough of the tree
right by our Chinese neighbour's garden.
What is it doing there?

*

Perhaps it's a homage to Jasper Johns
here for six months of the Korean War,
or in memory of the feelings of his friend
who remembered a 'loneliness' from seven years before
'drifting into my ears off Sendai in the snow...'
(but where he saw that whiteness during August '45
I don't for the life of me know).

*

Well, yes, I suppose it could be mine,
blown about by a wind
that unhooks the things you can hang on a line
or branch: an abandoned black plastic umbrella,
the strips of white paper containing bad fortunes,
tied in neat bows, transferred to the tree
- which seems to have absorbed them;
spirited away the luck; at any rate, survived.

*

Though camouflaged, now
that one more layer of overlapping greens
has painted out winter, some distant love's
skin can still be glimpsed through freckled tones
of bark, sap, chlorophyll; like a phantom limb,
tanned patches come, pale down, a reaching hand -
and so much else that could depend
upon a coat hanger among the leaves.

Shearsman no. 36, 1998;Trout no. 5, 1998.

Included in About Time Too (Manchester: Carcanet Press, 2001).