He calls them the Low Countries
because his hope has been flattened
beyond the rind of gull-stricken dykes
where the sea back home is waiting.
Then he meets her, in front of a rope
In Room 2.8 at the Rijksmuseum
where she’s watching Rembrandt
who fixes her with a father’s eye
like they have just ended a row
and she’s been grounded with Art
for a threadless, echoing afternoon.
He asks her where to buy coffee.
Soon they find themselves enfolded
as November smoulders outside
and branches smack the shutters
to scratched Coltrane and warm gin
from cracked cups and plum cake
before night pours in around them.
Later he discovers the old man’s face,
wedged in her bathroom mirror,
on a postcard, curled with steam,
that gaze weighing up a Millennium
of terror, decoration and uniforms,
iPhones, Hiroshimas and Hello Kitty
saying “Only Gods can change.”
In his black stare, a Pole Star flares
by which her love makes navigation
and gives berth to stowaways sailing
every depth but the sea back home.
From The Chelsea Flower Show Massacre (published by Templar Poetry)