The light below,
which was always white in sitting room and hall,
but yellow from my post upon the landing,
could be a wedge to split a wall in two,
and then a horn or speaking tube that filled
the stairwell with a muffled drawl - deep speech
that might have come through water.
My great aunt and my mother speaking late
at night, their voices sounding foreign.
My great aunt's house. My sleeping
brother, five years younger, unaware
of how the world can change its shape and bare
its soul when darkness falls. Evacuees,
our world had changed uncannily; we'd seen
new images replace the old. And there,
in my mind's eye, on my aunt's bureau,
sat code books, two-way radio
and all the many trappings of the spy.
Sometimes above the gurgling, a sun-
lit phrase might leap in distant echo
of a half-forgotten sentiment once tied
to one of my first snapshots of the world -
now mis-identified. Inside my skull,
cold analysts, sifting the intelligence,
uncovered things I swore to carry to
the grave: an uncle whom I loved
kept skeletons in some dark kitchen closet;
my mother loved a man who wore a funny hat;
and, dying of an unknown illness,
I'd only days (or so) to live.
© David King
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