A World Elsewhere

by William Scammell

1 The Visit

There were barns, paddocks,
young fruit trees coquetting
in the rain and thrum of wind.
It blew so hard the awning
of the outside love-seat split
a little further every hour.

Tall dogs with silky hair
slipped moorings by the Aga
gliding up to my strange scent;
the squash-faced semi-precious cat
subsided into a hump; and you
sat down, oblique and fine as
an old-fashioned stroke of the pen.

All the covers of the novels kiss.
Five chickens cluck in the yard
like perfect readers, wanting more
and more from the rich yawny air
to which they held one claw up
in mid-strut. When the time came

you fed us all we needed
baroque vespers after a light supper
of green salad and talk
served up with a rainbow trout.
I liked your vestal nightie,
sloping eyes, gig girlish feet
better that the small history
we made ourselves to make that night.

2 Not Marble

Beatrice, Laura, and the Dark Lady are.
discovered over a litter of tableware
with second cups of coffee, chocolate mints,
liquers, the viol’s languid impudence.

candour shines from each immortal eye.
two handsome serving men are waved away.
Someone pulls out an exquisite handkerchief
and mops her nose. They laugh, and laugh, and
laugh.

3 Kiev (after Mandelstam)

Last night the army trundled out of town
on the last streetcar, hugging its wounded. One
great bloodstained overcoat was calling out
“Don’t worry, we’ll be back among you! Soon!”