I raised a latch of a door in the wall
and immediately knew this was home.
The garden’s rosy superabundance
was a mille-fleurs embroidery stitching
raucous cawing of rooks from those high elms, the
swifts wheeling, doves’ cooing and blackbird song.
A mulberry tree was central. Pastel
hollyhocks nodded their welcome and men
scythed reeds and floated them down the river
under the willow trees’ gray-green flickers.
Lead waterspouts were limply supported
from the mellow masonry and woodworm
pricked the panelling. I felt not sadness,
but a beauty born of melancholy.
Leaving my charcoal overcoat downstairs,
I inspected the quaint garrets where once
tillers and herdsmen slept under the eaves.
The sloping floorboards creaked under my feet.
I realised she had never loved me.
How could she? Women are all shape-changers.
This house is an E with its tongue cut out,
so it will never prattle its scandal.
Betrayal’s woven in its tapestries:
Samson with his eyes gouged out for his love.
“Please, dear Janey, be happy..I cannot
paint you, but I love you – and now leave you.”
Some called it amitie amoureuse.
They dubbed me Guenevere, La Belle Iseult.
Once in this lost riverland, out of depth,
we drowned in our adulterous passion.
I heard carriages arriving at night,
so the cob’s harsh hooves had to be silenced
by leather shoes. I had no energy
when William was here, but took long walks
with Gabriel, who said our leaky punt
was not a poetic locomotion.
I keep my thoughts locked in my casket
in my bedroom. It was kind of Topsy
to bring me back that fine Icelandic smock.
Gabriel said it served his purposes well.
When they had Mouse the babes were not tiresome,
but Jenny’s impairment grows every day.
Tomorrow someone must trim the dragon.
In the studio I hear faint crying
over a stillborn child. He took chloral,
alcohol and would stay awake till five.
What was I to do with his exhumed verse?
Sir Lancelot had welded us as one.
I suppose I never loved him at all.
Tonight I left a pansy in Blunt’s room.
I am past sobbing that he does not come.
Rest then and rest and think. The floods encroach.
They say the frost has killed all our moorhens.
I’ll try to sleep: si je puis, si je puis..