Three poems by Paula Lorraine
The day is dark,
gunmetal grey winter sky
pierced by a few glaring shards of sunlight.
I pass by the manicured park in Russell Square,
the fountain where young children play barefoot
in the summer now silent and wet only with rain.
Walking on to the British Museum, columns
of Enlightenment lead me in to vast
stone paleness, glass-fronted gift shops
and heavy coffee scents.
I drift on through rich displays of gold,
precious jewels of long-dead wearers,
ancient clay cooking pots,
and cracked Egyptian heads with arched eyebrows,
their terracotta lips bearing testimony to broken kings.
The biggest was made for Rameses
the Second, a god of his time.
It is then I see five bronze men of Ancient Greece,
tiny captives on a circle of glass.
Four are running, perfect miniature muscles sculpted
and glinting like liquid under spotlights in a glass case,
the fifth the victor, proud in the centre
to tie a laurel wreath around his head.
Yet his arms have snapped at the elbows,
his triumph lost to every new generation,
snatched somewhere in time.
The fine golden sand lies wet where the sea
has left it for now, wave curves pulled back
into the darkly twinkling mass.
Ever gentle crashing reminds me
of its presence in the morning’s full sun.
I hold my sandals in my hand and press
bare skin imprints into unblemished smoothness,
stopping to crouch by a tiny glistening pool
where crystal water covers
the roughened white surface of a small scalloped shell
and a round buttermilk pebble, striped with two
translucent lines of glowing stone.
Temptation grips me and I lurch forward,
ready to grab, keep it for my own,
for turning over in my hand,
to nestle in the dust of my desk.
I hesitate, for I know my touch
Will break the spell, clouding
the magic with clumsy movement and change
my find to a hard lump of cold grit in my palm.
Pulling my arm back to my side, I stand,
listen to the grey gulls’ wicked laugh
and carry on with my day,
unsure of what to take from anything.
New Town Sonnet
I wonder why they built them quite so high,
the concrete chunks of flats and office space
that dominate the Essex New Town sky
and damn with such a soulless sense of place.
In lines of geometry dove grey homes spread,
marked out round strips of green and fenced-in trees,
neat corner shops for butter, milk and bread,
clean lines for utilitarian ease.
Yet as I walk through layered car park floors,
the ivy growing through is plain to see,
leaves push back at all the planner adores
to show that even here nature breaks free.
And on the smooth pale paint beneath my feet
the finest film of dirt forms in the heat.