This was my father’s garden, too many years ago to count and yet, the memory of it is as sharp as if I had seen it yesterday. My father loved carnations. Carnations and chrysanthemums, the great, shaggy headed, curled-over petalled flowers, which were almost glints of architecture in amongst the more gentle flowers.
THE SCENT OF CLOVES
The garden was full of carnations Standing in elegant rows like delicate soldiers, Or curling up together In friendly circles, Their silvery green leaves Supporting each other.
That spicy sharpness of cloves, That remembered scent of carnations Filled the air, Making me dream of other lives Lived by fabulous people, Which, one day, I would discover for myself.
But I never did. For my own life elbowed those dreams Out of the way And gave me carnations.
These old, cold meeting rooms and deserted chapels are derelict now. Hiding behind weeds and raw, self-set trees, Just waiting for someone to come along and buy them. Turn them into flats or offices. Not nearly as much fun as a gaggle of people Singing those great old hymns and songs That solaced and supported whole generations. Those dauntless songs and psalmodies that made the white opaque lampshades, Wide and lovely as floating tents, tremble and sway on the wings of melody. Now, a lullaby, now a trumpet call of men marching to destruction Or to share in the lonely and terrible deaths of others.
Here is the tiny kitchen, with the battered aluminium kettle Rattling against the rusted taps, Waiting to fill the giant teapots for throats dry after all that singing.
There is the strip of linoleum, torn and dirty on the worn out floor Still showing its faint brown pattern. A skirt of torn cotton hanging from a broken wire No longer hides the clean cups and saucers In the deep wooden cupboard, nor protects the plates, big and small, Stamped with the name of this once much-loved place. All gone, except a broken fragment of pot with a few faint words remaining.
Standing amongst the cobwebs, the torn pages of old music Almost playing themselves in the dusty silence, I hum an old remembered song of such power and beauty, All the lost dead and all the forgotten living Ring out their strong and lovely voices in joyful chorus. Sharing this last remembrance before it is gone for ever.
The old girl lay sleepless in her bed, Eyes staring through the dark, Fretting at a future she couldn’t see, Worrying at the hours and days and weeks That lay before her. Sleepless, she sighed again and again ‘If only I knew what the future will bring.’ Until the future, hiding behind the door, Listening keenly, stepped in.
Picking up two particularly heavy days, It smacked them round her head. ‘That’s one thing,’ it said.
Then selecting an especially lovely String of hours, Gently laid them round her neck. ‘And that’s another,’ it said. ‘Now, before I go, is there anything else You want to know?’
‘No,’ the old girl whispered, shaking her head, Turning quick and over in her bed. ‘If it’s alright with you, I’ll look at the stars instead.’