About Time Too


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).