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 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.