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cool, misty

a final visit
at the end of a project
au revoir to a summer fling
with a kind of freedom

speeding along
near empty roads
all the way
leaving Calais behind
heading south
arrive at the chateau
mist hangs around
the tops of tall trees
the gates are wide open
and the yard
is knee deep
crispy yellow leaves
H greets us
well wrapped up
and smiling
a young girl’s smile
she says she’ll call us in for tea

we un-install and dismantle
unscrew and unfold
the structures
wipe away dust and sand
from the photos
that are bowed
with damp autumn air
a summer’s work
is suddennly reduced to a pile of sticks
a stack of card
photos, acrylic, mirror, card
layered and stowed
in the back of the car
sad to leave behind
the bits that won’t fit
the red-satiny covered corrugated steel
the fitted doorway frame
the traces of a month long adventure

and then
we are drinking tea
all sitting neatly
at the round table
in the formal sitting room
portraits of grandmothers,
great grandmothers, husbands
watch over us
weak sunlight stipples the room
ancient golden curtains, spotted mirrors
shadowy furniture, lurk at the edges
around the table we are 6
H and her childhood friend
who has no english,
plus two woofers,
one from america
a taller one from Russia
they pour tea
serve chunky pear crumble
make polite conversation
we all sit quite still
like characters in a film
waiting for the next line
the log on the fire crackles
though it’s not very cold
and a record player spins out
Mendelssohn …I think
the moment
is hallucinatory
in its clarity and strangeness
…and then it’s over
and we find ourselves decanted
into the garden
H leads us round
peering at old photos
brownish, 70’s and out-of-focus
mounteed on sticks that stab the lawn
for Heritage Open Days
telling the story
of the family
H as a child, as a bridesmaid
to a cousin in a couture dress
with her mother, brother, sister
awkwardly standing
by the once formal flower beds
rammed with upright plants
dark orange plumes on parade
behind pale yellow tight-headed flowers

before leaving
H gives us kilos
of stubby pears
from her prolific tree
and an armful
of black blistering walnuts
glancing around
through the wispy air
at the solid slab of chateau
with its pale-green shutters
the massive trees shudder
and shed, as we watch, their leaves
and suddenly there’s a whiff
a feathery touch
a deja vu moment
of long-gone summer days
passing in an orderly way
….. slowly
one by one
days of being alone
in my head
making, thinking, dreaming

and so it’s really over
a sabbatical
a summer job
working away from home
intense and lucid
ponderous and tense
fraught with potential
and unreliable dreams
but, out of this disarray
new directions call
different ways of thinking linger on
connecting, diversifying…
making assemblages
small things, piles of things
informal, leaning things
insouciant and casual things
unforced …