This is the final settling
of dust, like the hour after snow –
silence unmarked by footfall,
respect before action.
The place of greeting now
just a door, in fallen leaves –
a winter of junk mail and news
unforaged: a single red-bill berry.
The hallway familiar in every detail –
except an assertive absence. And an
unfamiliar permission to touch
to tidy, to trammel, to trespass
into drawers and cupboards and
under-beds, unseen and thick
with dust and long-dead dramas
and dreams – and the bags. The carrier bags …
A life left in untidy fragments
furred over with a feeling of
do not touch, I have not been
touched for so long, so long.
In this tangible stillness,
the fine particles of his wearing,
on and in and out and settled – is an
unsettling presence lingering on.
And all those personal things –
glasses, teeth, hearing aids and combs,
their once-warm readiness to wear and use
now greasy, stale, waxy – hard to touch.
Beneath the dust is dust, and –
as if they’d run away to hide
in every rummage place, counting –
over two hundred obscure cameras.
Taps. First clean the taps. The sink.
The loo. Fresh soap. A towel. Bring
cleanness into this with Marigolds –
and retreat to a cafe for lunch.
The dirt is easy, the kitchen
unasked for and unasked about –
all thought of rescues for a
useful knife or tin, discarded
with biscuits, butter and green
things unspeakably prodded
into bags, beginnings of this final
settling of unanswerable neglect.
Something new intrudes this space,
room to move, space for sacks
black and bloating with the
obvious discards of a house.
A drawer drags out like an open mouth
waiting for a dentist’s probe, forgiving
the intrusion for the sake of a fix, cavities
and old fillings of rolled-up socks.
A door discloses dreary clothes
that hang alike from left to right
shaking themselves out on shoes
foot-moulded and hard with time.
Bits and boxes, fallen hangers,
things best cleared long ago but
forgotten and left as too much trouble
in the surrender of age and energy.
In places, dust is alleviated by a hope –
an expectation, a desire for secrets –
some final revelation of a private life
betrayed by the carelessness of dying.
But the grey decay sinks too deep and
nothing, a solid total nothing, signs
and underlines every cranny as seen,
lacking even interpretation of surprise.
The second day, the third – tea bags
and biscuits in an oasis, black sacks
piled outside, windows such as can be
opened for air, doors long stuck still stubborn.
Decisions tumble out now, freed from
pretence of any finds among worthless
souvenirs and foreign coins, useful gadgets,
buttons, needles, cards in backs of drawers.
The only care is with the collected cameras.
What to do with so many unknowns, their
recognition evaporating, thinner than the dust,
as we rack them, pack them, crate them home.
And all those carrier bags – disintegrating embraces of
letters, statements, documents, curled photos,
the latent lists of life and leftovers, unsorted
and waiting for the hours of unfolding.
Rebagged and removed they will
trace and track the strands still reaching
out and away from this house into
a world that carries on – and needs to know.
2011 © Andie Davidson