Elaine Feinstein: poems for Arnold

The poems on this page are copyright Elaine Feinstein 2004.

These poems were published by Elaine Feinstein in the book Talking to the dead

Talking to the dead


A visit

I still remember love like another country
           with an almost forgotten landscape
of salty skin and  a dry mouth.  I think
           there was always a temptation to escape
from the violence of that sun, the  sudden
           insignificance of ambition,
the prowl of jealousy like a witch's cat .

  Last night  I was sailing in my sleep
           like an old seafarer , with scurvy
  colouring my thoughts , there was moonlight
           and ice on green waters.
Hallucinations. Dangerous nostalgia.
          And early this morning you whispered
as  if you were  lying softly at my side:

Are you still angry with me ? And  spoke my
            name with so much tenderness,  I cried.
I never reproached you much
           that I remember, not even when I should;
to me,  you were the boy in Ravel's garden
            who always  longed to be good,
as  the  forest creatures knew, and so do I.



We first recognised each other as if we were siblings,
and  when we held hands your touch
made me stupidly happy.

           Hold my hand,  you said in the hospital .

You had big hands, strong hands, gentle
as those of a Mediterranean father
caressing the head of a child.

           Hold my hand , you said.  I feel
           I won't die while you are here.

You took my hand on our first aeroplane
and in opera houses, or watching
a video you wanted me to share.

             Hold my hand, you said. I'll fall asleep
             and won't even know you're not there.



  Email from Wellington (unsent)

When  I travel  without you,  I am no more
than a  gaudy kite on a long umbilical.
My flights  are  tethered by this telephone line
to your Parker  Knoll,  where you wait
lonely and stoical.

About  the Festival: there were  no penguins
crossing the road on the North Island,
no whales in Wellington harbour .
The  nearest land mass  is Antarctica, and
the wind blows straight from there to New Zealand.

Katherine Mansfield  lived  here as a child.
and I've bought gartered stockings in  bright  colours
to honour her in the character of  Gudrun.
For you,  I've  bought a  woollen  dressing gown.
You were always home to me.  I long for home.



Last night I wondered where you had found to sleep.
You weren't in bed. There was no-one in your chair.

Through every window the white, full moon glared .
I shivered in the garden.  Where are you, my darling ?

I called out  miserably:  You will catch cold .
Waking, I let the daytime facts unfold.



The clock's gone back. The shop lights spill
         over the wet street, these broken  streaks
of  traffic signals and white head-lights fill
        the  afternoon.  My thoughts are  bleak .

  I drive imagining  you still at my side,
        wanting  to share  the film I saw last night,
----of wartime separations, and the end
          when an old married couple re-unite ---

You never  did  learn to talk and find the way
            at the same time,  your voice teases me.
Well, you're right,  I've missed my turning,
          and smile a moment at the memory,

always knowing you lie peaceful and curled
           like an embryo  under the squelchy ground,
without a birth to wait for,  whirled
            into  that darkness  where nothing is found.