They rushed in dripping wet many long years ago,
their scarves and coats awry, their faces streaming;
the wind shut out beyond the door still roared
and set the house a-flutter at their coming.
It was as if a flock of birds had been drawn in
tumbling, and I, aghast almost, at that roistering
and the tremor of my heart’s confusion.
But what a joy it was when they were there,
to smell the damp of woollens steaming
by the fire and see the frothy porter rising.
Barnbrack and orangeade laid on for the young,
and I, their servant, every minute of it loving,
from the coy Come up and sit beside me, sure
to severer tongues against the weather clacking.
At last the No harm done prefaced the moving
of chairs aside, with the bright accordion prattling,
then the dizzying heat and glistening foreheads
of eager dancers, forever laughing and twirling,
or the singers, rapt to tears in their ancient yearning;
and I, ensconced in the corner, watching the fire dim,
one ear cocked for the driver’s cart -
wishing it would never come.
Serendipity: n. the faculty of making fortunate discoveries by accident.
You asked me to define serendipity that evening,
remember? Or to put it in a poem for you some time.
That was before you did your own research online,
your voice astonished, your eyes wide and bright
at what you learnt. And so much cause for merriment!
Sérendipité would not do, you said, the French equivalent,
discovered in your dictionary – not to your taste at all.
That union of French and English, despite our amour-propre,
was yet a birthing-pool to you for wonder and méprise.
But might not looking for it too intently be the answer,
in the way a casual glance at sunset from your window,
brought that lush fanfare of colours to our sight,
or the curling, scented smoke from your wood fire
teased our sense with vivid memories of a more distant
time, redolent of forest warmth and summer gaiety;
or the rainbows we beheld, shimmering through mist -
all of which caught us unawares, and happily so?
All found by us, I mean, when not deliberately sought for.
Serendipity is a word I cannot easily set down in verse:
those tripping rhythms rarely suit my sober lines,
and a glossary does not give me exactly what I need.
An example, you want. I know. But when I think about it now
it is laughter I get from that word – the laughter of friends
drawn close together round the table of an evening. As ever.
And there all the time, though not what I was really after.
Yet a more fortunate discovery I cannot find – and a surprise for me.
Serendipitous, I might add, for you. Serendipity, you see!
Swans at Evening
That evening we came back by the Water Meadows,
buoyed up by memory and that rediscovered path;
our heads nodding at wild flowers, calling out names -
a scattering of seeds we might once have sown there.
Circlets of gnats were still flourishing above the water
where the brown trout lay in their gravelled beds.
The sun drowsy too, slipping down in the distance
and for just one moment lost to us completely,
until it reappeared round the bend where the river
stretched away to a ballroom flickering with light;
and there a cob and pen appeared, ghostly white,
it seemed, almost as we remembered them -
necks mutely intertwined, until the current drew
them apart, before nudging them together again.
And we having stopped to look, rapt by the sight
of so elegant a movement, as it appeared to us then,
went on, arms entwined, waltzing into oblivion.
‘The Party’ and ‘Swans at Evening’ were commended, and ‘Serendipity’ was highly commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (July 2012)