Gar Gar

A coal, shifting in the grate, sent forth a flame

which, kindling others, passed a dance around the room

flickered here on china, brass and lamp,

stirred among bronze shadows, rows of pewter mugs

and bookshelves brooding with an unread stare.


In a trice, beside the fireside, my dead grandmother

leaning forward in a dark armchair

face intent and lined by fire shadows

shaping the landscape of her features as she talked

now crags and moors, now woods,

the singing brooks and nuthatches

calling from high trees.


The fire held secrets I could never dream,

a fairy land of ministers, kings, and knights,

songs of land and sea she sang me

in the fire-glow of a ticking clock room

in a forest ringed house somewhere, I suppose,

between a late lunch and an early tea.


A coal, shifting in the grate,

brought down the echoing caves,

the cracking roofs spewed forth a flame,

fork tonged light soared a moment, died.

The brooding watchers, unmoved as stars,

saw unfold another land, another law, another galaxy

in dull red caverns of the coals.


December 1954