The day is far too bright:
A coffee cup falls from her hand
And stains the carpet black.
The letter flutters from insensate fingers,
Her son wonders what is wrong.
The day is far too bright,
He loved the sun, but for a funeral?
She folds her hands demurely in her lap,
Ignores the vicar stumbling over homilies.
She has a child to raise,
Her life must still go on.
She'll take him home, forget his father,
Set out the china that was kept for best
And make another day come.
Children grow and all the best intentions
Can't destroy a young man's romantic notions.
He finds the uniform too attractive,
He believes he's found a cause.
She clatters the teacups, rattles them,
Uncaring of the brittle china,
And serves tea, passing scones and recriminations.
Etiolated words in an overheated atmosphere
Hang like arrows from an ancient war
Joining in modern battle.
It is to no avail though,
A decision has been taken without her.
No chance of entente cordiale,
No thaw before departure.
"Come back with your shield or on it," she sneers,
And clutches her teacup to her breast.
The fissures in the china, sprung apart
By the heat of brewed tea and the chill of cold milk,
Pulse in time with the butterfly beating of her heart.
She will not write him letters,
She returns arrivals unopened and unloved.
She burns his pictures one by one,
Determined she will lose him only on her own terms.
But she watches nightly news reports
Drinking Indian tea from fractured china,
Always pouring in the milk first,
Forgoing any taste of sugar.
Her heart is in her mouth as often
As her cup comes to her lips.
She prays her world will not be shattered.
In a tea-room on the high street
Where portly matrons gather to cluck at babies
And disapprove of vanilla cream in cakes
She takes a faded armchair for a seat
And gazes firmly at her oldest friend.
"No coffee," she says, "I've not drunk it
Since he died." Her hand trembles with the truth of it.
"Melissa, dear, you must hear me out,"
Her friend's eyes are reflecting pools in
Weathered geography that somehow makes a face.
"There's been... there is... a letter..."
"Has arrived?" She does not mean to shout
Perhaps the tearoom is just strangely quiet.
"He's coming home."
But with his shield or on it?
She sits alone in the drawing room
Clutching ancient, fragile china
That weeps hot tea, the tears she cannot
Bring herself to cry.
She sips it but it tastes so acrid;
The vitriol of unwelcome news
Pollutes her throat and poisons all the memories
Like effluvium in the last remaining well.