contrition

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA when you challenge him in anything

he turns to you the face of a scolded child

before indignation overcomes him

from the eyebrows down.

when he lies through his teeth

there’s a barefacedness about it

that almost makes you reel,

that almost makes you believe.

he lacks the grace to blush

when that might have been enough.

 

but you melt inside to hear

that laughter like a welcome home,

a retreat into the recent but irredeemable past,

when the way you held each other

was light as you might cradle an injured dove

that flew into your backyard fence one evening,

but ferocious and all-consuming in its tenderness.

 

you remember the days

you wandered off the trail

lost in a complicated argument

of not quite the whole truths

and sheltering in pizza parlour bars

while the rain came down like doomsday

on the tetons, left feeling inconsequential,

as people clutching strange instruments

cluster in around you for a hootenanny.

 

maze of creases on his face

from a crumpled pillowcase

like a map back into his childhood

when his mother might shake

him gently awake for school.

he suddenly seems defenceless

when you rouse him at 3 am

bewildered and plaintive

and you forgive him before

he can even begin to apologise.

 

Photo by Chantal

escapee

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viktorirresolute as a runaway prisoner

unsure who to trust in extremity

a subtly perplexed tension

about his eyes and eyebrows

that stirs sympathy to make

your eyes smart and throat ache.

 

he has the persecuted downward glance

fixed on the boots that march toward him

a muscle in his cheek twitches minutely

as he flinches at orders barked into his face

schools his expression into neutral

and dampens any defiance in his

demeanour into acquiescence.

Image: Ludwig Trepte as Viktor Goldstein in Generation War

accessible

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slightly parted expectant lips

the exact shade of a pink opal fruit

made to make your mouth water.

he flicks his fringe out of his eyes

in an intimate gesture,

leans toward the webcam,

confidentially all yours.

on the other side of the world,

he has skyped himself into your bedroom

a subtle invasion you collude in.

star

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a six-pointed fabric gold starRussland, russische Kriegsgefangene (Juden)

pinned to your chest

you attached it yourself

how could you comprehend

it marked you out for death?

 

like the oversize white Xs

they paint on the trunks

of condemned trees

in suburban streets.

 

a line of numerals

on your forearm

reminds you of the time

you fell into a world of harm:

a nightmare you couldn’t wake up from.

 

your cancelled future may have held a child

with no idea that that school badge of merit

that proud distinction

now coveted and craved

pressed onto the top

righthand corner of the page

once spelt extinction.

 

perhaps he can still remember

the unique and special

taste of the paste

on the tip of his tongue,

as he carefully moistened

its delicate reverse.

he may equate it with success,

a past perfumed with chalk dust,

promise and hopefulness.

 

but you too were once like this,

running in a playground

of levelled light-grey gravel,

invincible and breathless,

a coloured sash across your chest.

unafraid and innocent,

not knowing what it was then

not possible to know.

and now there is no unknowing it.

 

 

 

Image from Wikipedia, Antisemitism

five pm

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thank goodness for the ends of days.

arrive home in time to watch old heroes

escape from paradise, to shower off

the menopausal women, talking about

pyrex dishes and bread and butter pudding.

or betty who had her cat put down.

distressing stories passed around like herpes,

or someone’s packet of scampi and lemon crisps.

we say goodbye to the machine.

take refuge in the endless adventures of the screen.

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