Seven Letters


I was sent to kindergarten when I was four;
there were two brothers who wore striped jerseys
and watched from the monkey bars like Chinese tigers.
They are quite clear;
I hold the expression of their eyes
as a boy would keep prized marbles.

I am told I remember
a young teacher who later wrote me a letter
each year, till there were seven;
so she too is a smile and a certain turn in the hair,
like something known to have been put away.
Her letters lay fixed and tight in a redwood box
with a gold plate inscribed To F.M. McM. from C.E.W.K.

I find it so easy to fall back to that nowhere,
safe with my bundle of dim afternoons.
Now, spread round me I finger in turn letters and memories;
I shut myself in among the bright faces of ghost children
with the old brown piano that garbles mock-happy tunes;
yet I must watch my own face, making shadow,
recorded, lifeless as paper
and sense the light seep through the baize swing-door.

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