Loosed from this morning's spell of waking sleep
in a hundred-year-old room, the cupboard seems
older even than the walls, is clothed
in dust and scratches, abrasions, knocks and cracks.
Inside it are our clothes, that reach from it
sleeves and hemlines, jamming through the doors
that dress each day my known identities—
they colour me; enunciate a form,
announce a presence, but then are put away,
leaving me to haunted sleepless nights,
or nights dressed up in dreams, that colour me
more starkly than the day, in buried thought.
And yesterday I found a loose floorboard
under which a bonnet had been stowed—
or dragged by rats for nesting—and a sock
embroidered with initials, J.C.M.
‘They're nineteenth century,’ you said, ‘and see
the pattern of lace sewn carefully by hand.'
You smiled and mused, ‘They're wonderfully well made,
though somewhat small.' That night I felt a hand
teach through my dreams and touch my resting hand,
and a plaintive whisper: ‘Sir, that bonnet's mine’,
and woke with a fearful cry. My own clothes pressed
from the open cupboard door, I picked your blouse
from where it rested near the fireplace,
the room arrayed in the half-light of my fear.
I waited sleeplessly for morning's light
to dress the day and to undress my fright.