A Chaplet for Judith Landry


Dear Judith: In sincerest gratitude,
here is the bread-and-butter gift requested.
I wouldn’t want our friendship to be tested
because I didn’t sit down and get at it. “Rude
and slovenly, with a bad attitude,”
you’d say; although there might be worse things listed
against me if my offering consisted
of cliché justified by platitude.
I’m writing to you from an estuarial
island, where deer graze, pigs rampage, loons sing; land
marsh-bottomed, oyster-bedded, territorial
range of wild horse, freed pets’ progeny.
But still I close my eyes and think of England:
where else could we dig into Kedgeree?

Where else would we dig into Kedgeree
with a prolific writer who’d just been
presented, after sherry, to the Queen?
(Next time they meet, she’ll be a C.B.E.)
Two raw colonials, my girl and me
quivered respectfully, thrilled to the bone.
That’s why we put on everything we owned,
although it was a sultry fifty-three
indoors. To sit by the electric fire,
stroking enchanting Rock-cake, gone quite flat,
(sign of advanced achievement in a cat,)
and sip Frascati—l could not desire
more! While our natterings didn’t dislodge
from the kittens! the kittens! enraptured Squodge.

From the kittens! the kittens! enraptured Squodge
could only be occasionally pried.
(Say, if a Hamley’s van pulled up outside,
sent by the Queen, pour rendre ses hommages.)

I’m sorry if we left a grubby hodge-
podge of Lego, socks and tracts beside
your easy-chair. We’re sloppy, but we tried
to be acceptably contained and sages.
I liked the Oriential rugs beneath
and upon the table where we ate,
watching daffodils bloom in the teeth
of London bluster beyond French windows.
You liked loud Iva who resists repose.
I liked tall Lurky who stays up too late.

I liked tall Lurky who stays up too late,
although I missed the threatened saxophone
rehearsal. Living, equals, with your grown
daughter, you enlighten me and my eight-
year-old, who’ve witnessed pairs wasting with hate-
ful wrangling, while we hug and spar our own
infatuation. You were kind to loan
me your featherbed. Under its weight,
I slept like a ploughman with my socks on.
Mornings we drank hot coffee-milk from bowls.
The Saturday it rained, we vetoed Kew
and herded Iva, via the Number 2
to look with Bonnard, (recognition shocks) on
Interiors domestic as our souls.

Interiors domestic as our souls,
salvaged like postcards of congenial places:
frayed armchairs framing animated faces,
the two-bar fire with fake electric coals.
The kamikaze boys’-club that controls
just the survival of the human race is
excluded temporarily. What grace is
implicit in our customary roles
—confidante, chatelaine, cook, hostess, mother—
when, our own women, we have latitude
to choose them and enact them for each other.
Our homes very infrequently are castles.
Having shared yours, we’ll pledge ourselves your vassals,
dear Judith, in sincerest gratitude.

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