How strange to see the notification of someone’s birthday on Facebook
when they are no longer there to receive your greeting … Sumiko Morimoto
and I met in 2014.
The small Japanese corner
Howell was all packed, to return to live in Japan,
and as keen as always to win the karaoke contest.
He’d been brushing up, but Sumiko too knew
how to soft sing sakura, sakura …
Now and then I see her mother’s old blue fan
on the shelf in my Japanese corner, beside the blue
mug Howell gave me, with the names of fishes,
Sumiko’s delicate New Year card with pigs and piglets.
She’d been well looked after at Rydal Hall, when she
went up to the Lakes, wanting at last to see the small
cottage of Wordsworth, her hero, whom she’d studied.
Here is the photo of her smiling over breakfast in my garden.
Worried about Sumiko, Howell’s email two months ago, the illness she is fighting. Here’s another email …
If I finally decide to fly to Osaka, it’ll just be Howell
and me, eating his favourite okonomiyaki pancake.
My father died a few weeks after his 75th birthday in October, 1990. He had a talent for music: singing in and conducting choirs, and playing the church organ for many years. Here is a picture of him as a young man: a somewhat anxious look, wanting to do a good job of transporting my mother and me safely.
The poem Prelude and Fugue was published in the anthology, Poems from the Readaround, Tarantula Press, 1995. Prelude and Fugue
I enter and dare a glance at your effects –
straight rows of books in alphabetical order
the white board emptied
pens and pencils (four of each)
manuscript paper and a rubber
on the Yamaha
You were filling in the bass line
Music for a while shall all your cares beguile
You kept some organ pipes in the loft.
You were going to build one.
What happened to those when you moved
into the flat?
Sometimes I turned the pages for you
feet darting across the pedals
When I was twelve I left the choir
and gave up singing
Your black shoes scuffed at the side
The Catholics paid best you said
a bonus for weddings and funerals
This week my friend Marianne would have celebrated her birthday. One of my best memories is the trip I made with Marianne and other sponsors to Lalibela, Ethiopia in January 2007, during the Timket celebrations. Marianne had set up the Lalibela Educational Trust in 2006, to ensure there would be enough funding for sponsored children when they moved into secondary and tertiary education – university, nursing college.
With her 2007 Christmas card she sent a change of address: she’d bought a flat in Rotterdam, to be close to her new partner. She was going to join an accordion orchestra and find a violin teacher. I booked my flights in November 2007, the month Marianne’s GP mis-diagnosed, telling her symptoms were just Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). After the photo was taken Spring 2008, Marianne donated her accordion to the woman director of the orchestra.
Brahms’ Alto Rhapsody
The March visit had been planned
as a celebration of your retirement.
We walked on Calshot beach
summing up our lives, loves,
gifts and regrets.
Later, in your study upstairs,
we listened, connected
to your white MP3.
I couldn’t stop myself
from humming along.
Your ex-colleague (younger,
glasses, a little overweight)
started to speak in the silence –
when the men have stopped singing.
At your cremation they let
that alto voice fade away