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Reading in the Rain

by Andrew Taylor

The gas fire purrs, glows orange in the gloomy coop, this caravan,
can’t alter the facts of it - its bulgy cushions, the bits of brittle,
yellowing foam they shed, the torn curtains hanging over smeary glass.

We wipe a port-hole in the fog to see feathers streaming
into fluty drains, knotty twine clumps and hay strips sliding
over wind-scrubbed concrete, rain-pocked puddles.

A spiky kitten, spooked by wind-bursts, avoids the rattling gate
and the splayed fan of heavy wood planks shifting slightly.
Elms above us roar warning of each approaching raid.

You read to us from a battered copy of ‘All Creatures Great and Small’.
This page is crinkled from a water spill; this one’s yellowed, sun-smothered,
speckled with spludged insects, exclamations, blotty vowels.

The yard warps in the wobble of the glass and we listen to your voices –
the rolling open country of the storyteller, the steeply climbing,
suddenly downwards sliding scales of script, your awful Yorkshire accents…

And now, nearly five decades later, it’s my turn and I’m reading
Alice Oswald’s ‘Dart’, letting her river song reach you in your bed,
hoping you can see, as I do, images in filmy water, salmon leaping.

Too weak to read those printed words, you listen to my voice
And through the open window, rain, rain tipping the dark leaves
of your roses down, spilling onto the grass, meeting soil.

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