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The Bible

Big as suitcase, heavy
as a log, the cover wrinkled
in elephant skin.
Budby opened the book
and the frontispiece lit up the room:
there were angels and saints,
all the shimmering animals
of heaven. Christ on his cross.
It lit up the room.
Budby's eyes glimmered
in this new light. What he saw
I do not know, but he grabbed
a corner, as if it were no more
than a photo of Billy Bremner,
and tore the whole page out.
I couldn't believe it.
He folded it up, and stuffed it
in the pocket of his Sunday best.
I can still remember rip
of the paper, the dust motes
floating in the air of that miserable
Methodist chapel, and I felt
something lift me, like wings,
out of that dark place.

 

Ode to a Magnolia Tree

Impatient
as always,
you blossom
in the cold
March air,
even before
your leaves
have set:
impetuous
hostage
to late frosts,
the unfinished
business of winter -
but what
do you care,
you want
to cut free,
feel the sun
on your face,
to flaunt
your big
creamy flowers,
so exotic
in this dull
suburban garden.
I see you
in Rio,
on the banks
of the Mississippi,
or holding court
in a Japanese garden.
You glow
in the dusk,
your petals
like lanterns,
lighting
the garden wall,
eccentric, ornate
as an art nouveau
chandelier.
The daffodils
are hesitant,
the crocuses
reluctant to stir.
Only the snowdrops
have come,
and gone,
the ground
hard
as a tin lid.
But look at you:
shivering in the cold,
half dressed
for a party
that never happened,
standing alone,
unchaperoned
on the cold lawn.
You're not
of this world
really,
so delicate;
stunning
for a week,
and then
the hailstones
ruin you,
the gales,
the sudden
downpours.
The pavements
are strewn
with flotillas
of little ivory
rowing boats
as if some
ocean liner
had just
gone down
with all hands
lost.