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He laid a place for her as usual.

A special place in his affections,

where she would descend from the still depths

and sit awhile with him again.

Quietly, stiffly, their flowery china cups

and polished apostle teaspoons waited patiently.

Steadily, the bright morning warmth cooled

and inexorably the ashen dust started

to swirl and accumulate on faded furniture.

At first, it settled only lightly

- on photographs, on calendars, on lists -

but slowly, inevitably, the cold drift

began to carpet the house.  He didn't

seem to realize how increasingly

difficult she was finding it to join him.

The flakes were piling up everywhere

and were preventing him from seeing her.

The silent, secret dust crept and deepened,

until it cloaked every room in the house.

Through it all, he battled bravely,

as he had as a young, handsome man,

amongst the other tommies for his country.

But now the enemy was unknowable

and unseen and recalled fresh pain every day.


"She'll be down in a minute," he eagerly

explained, his eyes anticipatory

specks of distant yearning and searching need.


The cosy, still living room heartened

and waited . . . and waited . . . and waited,

with its expectant table and chair

and ticking grandfather clock all standing

smartly to attention for her arrival.

But inside a deepening blizzard raged.


From a long, dark trench, I echoed back,

"Tommy, she won't be coming down anymore,"'

and a light dimmed and went out somewhere.


In the deep, glacial wasteland, a fresh drop

trickled down and splashed into her empty bowl.

Momentarily, her stark headstone brutally

resurfaced above the snowy plain,

before being enveloped once again

by cold, pale dust settling everywhere.

He glimpsed, peering through the blurred web of years,

and realized, in dawning pain, that her place mat

had been prepared elsewhere: that he'd lain her out

for the last time in another place.

His quivering, muted memory hung

in the air, groundless again amongst the motes.


Until she's placed again.


read by Matthew Jure
00:00 / 02:40
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