Two Poems by Sarah James

Hidden histories

I bet she’s going to the races, or maybe a winter wedding.
Her hat and gloves could mark out film-star status.
But it’s her pose on the other side of the carriage glass
that pulls my gaze: a lingering longing in the way
she’s inclining after something lost in the train window.

Ghost of a dream perhaps, a passing landscape,
or simply her own reflection. I don’t know her,
so I spin mysteries from these glimpses: defiance
in her tilted chin, a sharp pain hidden in the shadows
cast beneath her hat’s rim, lips that want to kiss

a blurred lover framed in her mind’s eye. Or framed in mine.
I project my loss into the hint of her breath on the window
as the train pulls off into the misty distance – leaving me
as another lone stranger on the cold platform.


Worcester’s Second-hand Store

The old doors for sale taunt me:
their edges lined up like title-less spines
on a bookshelf – a row of what-ifs
leant against the shop wall outside.

Touched only by shadows, nothing
remains in their flaking paint to hint at
what became of the rooms they owned,
or the lives that passed through.

Latches rust; loose hinges flap,
battered by hard weather.
No one stops to ask what happens
to a building, a world, a life and its purpose,

when someone’s opened every door,
crossed every threshold,
and found only the same room
with different decor.

For years, I’ve passed by, reading
myself into their wooden flatness:
frameless, face against the wall
or forced closed by other wedged doors.

Working nine to five, an average Joe
born and bred by my side. Eating, sleeping,
maybe still dreaming now and then
until now becomes only then.

A few months later, they’ve all gone,
leaving wall, pavement and air.
Standing at this place now, my life
is shadowed at my feet and my doors

facing sideways from the question
I’m avoiding: do I stay or do I go?

 

Sarah James is a prize-winning poet, fiction writer, journalist and photographer. Her latest full collection is plenty-fish (Nine Arches Press) and her website is at www.sarah-james.co.uk.

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