(for Joe)

As I cut back the elegant stems

of the fuchsia my wife recalls

how you arrived with it

one sunny day, and how it looked

lonely as an orphan.

That first winter I thought it

dead to the world: leafless, dry.

Then summer's resurrection: spurts

of green, masses of red bells

dripping to the grass.

As I cut back the elegant stems

of the fuchsia my wife recalls

how you would never arrive one arm

long as the other, h ow you would cradle

a new book like a holy thing

smelling the sharp tang of fresh print,

flicking pages of promise,

how it was impossible for us

ever to leave your home empty-handed,

how you would give it all away.

By The Third Day

By Michael Massey

I can't tear my eyes from your chair.

In sitting-room's dim light it brims

with your absence, cushions

that yielded to your body

are indented still.

I thought that by the make-or-break

third day they would have risen

to original smoothness, and now,

having no desire to distort the mould

I leave it empty.

As night lengthens I kneel to caress

the contours of the fabric, my fingers

conjuring your shape into soft hollows,

swearing this chair is still warm

to the touch.

The Writer & The Dog

By Michael Massey

The dog lifts a lazy eyelid to follow

the trajectory of another scrunched page

sailing towards a corner where a basket

overflows, besieged by a windfall of broken

poems, too wounded to be cured.

The dog rises on stiff joints, waddles out

through the open door, framing sea

and sky, waddles back in panting, circles

his basket a few times before settling

down to watch the writer's hunched back.

All day long the dog is lulled in

and out of sleep by waves rushing

up the beach, swishing back to the sea.

He hears the odd screech of a gull, and the pen

scratching, scratching across the page.

As the sun eases itself into the sea, the writer

pushes himself to his feet, stretches, yawns,

hears the creaking of old bones, casually suggests

a stroll. The dog climbs to his feet, as if a walk

by the sea was the last thing on his mind.

The writer's an old writer. The dog's an old dog.