First published 'Oasis' 1999
Though I never lived during that kingdom of war - the one that rained in London - I could easily imagine the colourlessness (or, rather, variegated brown) in every wet afternoon, prefiguring the contrast of night's man-made lightning. Séances were being held amid the chintz of every blitz-free sitting-room; tears being shed in every outhouse; tender hands held, over and over again, in every beach hut and every park.
Well, for every every, amen. I shook my shoulders - not a shrug as such; more of a shudder. I tramped the back-end streets, wondering if I had been transported in time to those very afternoons when shapes in fragile freedom from the night's shelters (the Underground included) became the slowly nudging together of lightly-fleshed ghosts in the hope that something worthwhile or tangible would emerge by this serendipity of touch. Ghosts, I guessed, were to be everybody, even you and me.
This was to have been a poem. But it felt like a story, with all the trappings of a plot, albeit missing a beginning, a middle or an end, if not all three. I could have gutted this story of its protagonists, but then nobody would have been there to report its waywardness.
I met Nadia in a park where courting couples were more colourless than most, if less tearful. She was someone with whom I assumed an immediate mutuality. She smiled, wiping away her tears with a burnt hankie. Collateral damage, she said, from last night's bombs. I didn't take umbrage at her false modernity. I knew she joked; this was then, not now.
A fleeting image of an evening when Nadia and I did walk under a fleet of doodlebugs - and suddenly a thing like a plum-pudding bursting with a fiery sauce came down and a lot of glass fell out of the windows on to us.
"Good job we were not there": my first ever set of words to Nadia upon meeting in the park. My second: "Ghosts were simply the future."
"Ghosts will forever be the past," were my sweet Nadia's last.
But truth told no rhymes.