A Clockwise Direction by Raymond Miller

A Clockwise Direction

I found that old wedding photo we lost
behind a doll in our daughter’s room.
Russian, as it happens, the doll that is –
I can read some significance in that:
so full of themselves, they miss the bleeding
obvious. I wiped the dust from off its surface,
made you 21 again and placed us

on the bookshelf where P meets Q.
I’d have liked it before your favourite author
but her shelf’s too close to the ground.
All my books are still in alphabetical order;
I wake at 7 to clean and tidy,
progressing in a clockwise direction,
starting at the front door and ending in the bath.

I compare it to my parents’ wedding picture
that’s hanging next to the dining room door:
they’d a bigger cake, more friends and relations,
dressed black and white, a formal occasion;
contemplative, no eye for the camera.
My mother’s fuller in the face than I remember
and isn’t that an ashtray beside the cake?

I blow these pictures up out of proportion
trying to discover germs of the future:
leukaemia, cancer and emphysema
buried within a forgotten Baboushka.
How happy we appear! My Mum said never
had I looked so handsome, like Richard Gere.
Perhaps that’s the joke I’m laughing at.

Behind us I trace the faintest whisper
of the tower blocks blown in ‘88.
As we’re cutting the cake, your face
burns with embarrassment
or anticipation of the sauce to come.
I can feel the grip that you have on my arm,
as if I might be the first to depart.

When lights fade I think I can hear you breathing,
but it’s central heating or a noise in the loft.
I close the windows to keep your scent in
and reach out to touch an amputation –
I said we shouldn’t buy a bed this wide.
You never see pictures taken at funerals
unless somebody important has died.

by Raymond Miller

Editor’s Note: This poem deceives the reader with its conversational tone, but by the fifth stanza, the first touch of foreboding appears. The last stanza’s intense grief is as ordinary as it is difficult.

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