Winnie Thomson

Her brothers
Had become lovers
Not of her
But of Jane
Jane with flaming flying hair
A famed wild beauty

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Winnie Thomson

First things first: when
day broke, he got out
of bed, and realised that it was
Spring. “Daffodils,” he said to me.
I answered, “Not here. Here we have daisies which
keep the veld blooming.”
“Thinking about that, yes; er..
about that trip we’re taking to
the West Coast Let’s
end our visit to the flowers
of Darling, Clanwilliam and the Bidouw Valley before
Autumn comes again.

Winnie Thomson

The taste of lightning

Jean- Louis had spent the afternoon painting. He was a fairly talented artist, but he was lazy. This time he was using the fashion pages of Marie Claire, as his models. His technique was good, and he reproduced the photographs skilfully. Two weeks later Hugo, an artist friend came to see Jean-Louis’ latest works.

“Shit, man, J-Lou, these portraits are damned good. Yeah – they’re ‘commercial’, but they’re still bloody good. Did you have a model or are they copied from photos?”

“No, it’s a model – a French girl who was visiting- she’s gone back to Paris.”

A feeling of metallic, dark nausea filled my mouth. I knew he was lying – how often had he lied to me before?

WinnieThomson

Father Jack

This is a fairy story, because it ends happily and potential harm is averted.

It was midday in the parlour of St Mary Magdalene convent, and the cat was eating the food which the sisters put out for him. Sister Philomena entered the parlour to see that everything was in order for the meeting with the parents of the confirmation children. She shooed the cat out “Bad beast.  Beast of the devil! Get out!”

The cat slunk away. Sister Philomena and her broom were two things he feared. She straightened the anti-macassars on the leather chairs. Father O’Donaghue would be having tea before meeting the parents of the confirmation class at 6 p.m. With a storm brewing, Sister Philomena knew that Father O’Donaghue wouldn’t leave until the storm had passed.

“Blast the man,” she said to herself, “why can’t he be brave and face the wet like any other man?”

Father Jack O’Donaghue wasn’t like other people.

He was a dancer.

We now go back to when Jack O’Donoghue was about ten. One day, when Mrs. O’Donaghue had a moment to notice her eldest son, she saw that he had great trouble walking: he seemed to fall over his feet. Martha O’Donaghue acted quickly and told young Jack that he had to join the gymnastics class on Wednesday afternoons in the school hall. So on Wednesday, Jack arrived at the hall. He was a little surprised to see that he was the only boy, and that the girls were wearing skirts over what looked like pink bathing-suits. He soon found out that this was a ballet class, but he enjoyed his first lesson, and so continued to attend. He was popular in the ballet class because he was strong and could partner the girls in pas de deux.

He spent the rest of his time at school attending ballet lessons and even winning prizes in competitions.

After leaving school, uncertain about his career, he worked in a bank. He continued going to dance classes, but this time, they were ballroom dancing classes. His ballet training helped him: his movements were graceful and the girls in the class liked dancing with him, Latin being their preferred style of dance.

When Jack was about 30, a particularly emotive homily on the Prodigal Son, roused ideas he hadn’t considered for many years – perhaps he had a vocation to the priesthood.

***

After his ordination, he worked first as a curate and then later as a parish priest. Even in his busy schedule, in his own parish, he still found time to go to a ballroom-dancing school to continue his dancing. He would go, on his day off, to a remote suburb of a big city, he wore a wedding ring, and was generally evasive about questions about his job and where he worked.

This double life continued for many years Jack was well-liked:
He was a good preacher and sympathetic confessor. He was particularly liked by the younger members of the parish.  His classes with 16 or 17-year-olds preparing for confirmation were interesting and challenging as Jack gave the young men and women a realistic view of their faith. All went smoothly and Father Jack continued to dance.

Until that day in 2007- when Sister Philomena shooed the cat out of the nuns’ parlour. The confirmands were going to stage a variety show a week after their confirmation to thank the parish for their support. The only complication was that the date planned for the concert was also the date of a dance competition and for the first time, Tania- May had convinced Jack that they should participate and show off their spectacular Tango. How was Jack – or rather Father Jack – going to resolve this dilemma? He liked Tania-May and enjoyed dancing but he was a priest and his duty to the confirmation class was far more important.

Mysterious things happen in fairy stories and when they are allied to religion, miracles can happen!

And so one did. Four of the judges of the dance competition were all ill with a very bad dose of ‘flu and were unable to judge – so the competition was postponed for two weeks. This gave Jack and Tania-May more time to practise. Jack was tired of this “double life” so he suggested to Tania- May that they use the concert as an extra practice. In this way he could reveal his secret to the parish.

If the parish knew nothing of Fatter Jack’s dancing life, Tania-May did not suspect what her regular partner did when he wasn’t dancing. So she was somewhat surprised that the venue was a church and Jack – now Father Jack – was in clerical garb.

“Oh, yes, I meant to explain, but now I don’t have to- I’ve ‘come out’, as it were. But we’re still going to dance.”

“Dance?”

As in all good fairy stories, everyone lived happily ever after: Jack O’ Donoghue remained a well-liked parish priest; Tania-May met Jerome Flynn: it was love at first sight and they too lived happily ever after.

Indeed, Father Jack O’Donoghue was not like other people, or other priests!

Winnie Thomson

Carpe Diem – gone awry – a sort of Elizabethan  sonnet

My lover rode the lift, but vanished down,
and down and away from me for ever.
I stared, disbelieving at emptiness
and knew we’d never meet again -or love.

But I left too. My own deceit betrayed
places where we’d loved. Faithlessness lasted
longer than our brief loving ever had.
And sadness left its acrid metal taste.

Once more we’re at the seedy small hotel
to love and catch in delirious minutes
a life of love, believing love and lust
make the layers of living in time and trust.

I was naïve and green, not knowing then
we’d  part, leave and go down far away down.

Winnie Thomson

Mountain of Pain

I am many-faceted and, I hope, fascinating;
but now, my outer covering of politeness and charm is burned away.

The bushes blaze in uncontrolled, hellish light
Afraid, I feel the mountain falling on me. And charm is burned away.

Can I apologise- again- or do I let it lie?
Mea Culpa- how can I put out this fire of tactlessness? The charm is burned away.

Praying for rain, for water, I weep, vulnerable and weak;
Water  will douse the flames. The charm is burned away.

The baptism of fire is literal and real;
new growth now- the mountain recreated.

Yet still the scars are there.
In Winifred, a red point of pain.

Winnie Thomson

Show Stopper

Eight-year-old Sue Simon had vivid memories of last year’s Spring Show and could hardly contain her excitement as the family got ready g. There was to be a talent contest at 3p.m., and Sue, her heart set on being an actress, was determined not only to participate, but to win. Her parents were anxious- she had a slight limp. “She shouldn’t get her hopes up too high,” her father had said.

“But darling, she’s been practising for days.”

“Well, let’s just wait and see.”

Once at the fair grounds, John and Rose left the children at the swings and “rides” with enough money for them to have a few rides each.  Sue and James would meet their parents at the tent where the talent contest was to be held at half-past two “at the latest,” said Rose. “You’ll need to calm down after all the rides.”

“’Bye Mom, ’bye Dad’,” they said and ran off to ride on flying swings and the wonderful roller coaster.

The fair ground was busy and there was a lot of noise: the crowds calling, children squealing on the more daring rides, the music from several booths and over all this noise, there were the mixed smells of candy-floss, hot-dogs and pop-corn. Surprisingly too, there was the rather “wild” smell of a group of animals in a far corner of the fair-grounds. This year, a small “zoo” – perhaps some retired circus animals in cages, – had been allowed at the fair and for a small fee, several people were looking curiously at the lion: this was a sad-sack of an animal, not regal at all. Pressed against the bars of its cage; an elephant stood under a tree and accepted  the buns and bananas thrown to it, and  four ponies with faded finery in their harnesses stood meekly under another  tree- a safe distance from the elephant.  Particularly thrilled, was a group of orphans- about twenty of them- looking in wide-eyed amazement at these beasts. Suddenly there was a loud cry and the orphans were squealing and crying; as well as running in all directions and shouting “Lion! Lion’s out!” Somehow, perhaps through the action of one of the children themselves, the lion’s cage was open and the sad-sack of a creature was standing bewildered in the centre of the field. The two teachers supposedly in charge of the orphans were nowhere to be seen (in fact they had gone in  search of the trainer) but the orphan children presented a real problem – as much as the “ escaped “lion did.

“Quiet!” Sue Simon stood between the lion and the orphans. “This lion can’t hurt you. Now listen to me! ‘Said the shark…’”

The children did go quiet and in a short while, they were cheering Sue while the animal trainer had coaxed the lion back into its cage.

From another corner of the fair-ground, there was an announcement over the loud-speaker that the talent contest was to begin in fifteen minutes and that no more competitors would be allowed into the tent.

Sue grabbed James’s hand and they ran through the crowds towards the tent in the opposite corner to the “zoo”.

Crumpled, her hair awry and her face red and shiny, Sue went and sat next to her father. A tall, confident blonde girl was reciting a poem which amused the audience.  “Am I too late, Daddy?” Sue whispered.

“‘Fraid so, darling.”

“But the lion got out and…”

“Sh… sh…”

Then one of the judges stood up. “Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls…” he began. “I think we’ve heard everyone. …”

“Just a minute!” There was a loud voice at the back of the tent. “Where’s the little lion girl? The one who saved the orphans? We need to hear her! She has just done an amazing thing.” And briefly he told the audience about Sue’s action of a few minutes earlier.

Sue didn’t feel very confident about her appearance, but she’d read enough stories about the show going on, so, in spite of  her crumpled dress and dusty shoes, she stood  up on the little raised stage and recited her poem ;
“ Said the shark to the flying-fish…”

She knew the poem so well, put the right expression into all the words that the audience cheered and Sue the Lion-Tamer won first prize!

Winnie Thomson

Essay: Of Colours and Coffee

From an early age, before I knowing the concept, I was fascinated by the bright dots of colour on what I later learnt was a map. I loved the dabs of colours in my paint box- and their wonderful names: – gamboge, cobalt, ultramarine- or the vibrant colours and waxy textures of my Crayola crayons. And I remember the rich colours of the patches in the cushions in my Great-Aunt’s house. The silky black velvet, the yellow and brown brocade- a scrap from my Uncle’s dressing-gown? And the changing dark blue taffeta: the dining-room curtains? Perhaps. Now, so many years later-  I can still see and feel those colours and the gold feather-stitching edging each patch. Holding the cushion in my memory, I go to other parts of my life, remembering how those aunts and uncles fussed over me and made me feel important and amusing, a delight to them all.

So it was a sad awakening to find that not everyone felt like that about me. I am the outsider, drab and brown in my brown coat, with my brown hair and eyes. I longed to be pretty and pink like the Posies and Popsies and Paulines. I longed not to be serious wanting to be carefree and careless –like them, laughing and giggling. Now age has brought some acceptance, if not wisdom, and it doesn’t matter- or not much.

Now silence in my life is welcome, or I can make it disappear with a radio chat-chat-chattering. But deeper and more truly, the silence matters. It comforts and soothes. And if I seek real noise, then I go and wait for a friend at the coffee-shop.

The “Psshts” of the machine and the called -out orders “One cappuccino, one long skinny latte” ring out over the rapid and excited conversations. This too is a pleasure.

And so, I celebrate my life – of colours and memories and I am content : with , of course, the curled cat asleep on the sofa.

Winnie Thomson

I was looking for a poem, when an envelope came to me …

Looking for a poem, groping in doubt, tentatively and without awareness,
Like a hook- tantalizing the mind-
This mind of mine grabs a word, a sentence.

The pen writes laments, songs of praise, and
As the tune bends and insinuates itself,
The poet sees little things, makes the connections without fear.

She connects, she creates the links and sees the poem on the page.

Winnie Thomson

The ballad of Ben and Amy

Amy and Ben loved long and true
But fate had decreed they’d never be wed.
She waited for months and for years
She moistened the ground with her fast-flowing tears.
She waited for Ben’s horse bringing him home.
But all that she did was grow older and older,
And the winds blew colder and colder.
And the wind swept her away.
And all that we have are flowers and flowers.

Most people in the town knew about Ben and Amy and how, during a war, where Ben was away fighting, Amy would wait every day for him. Everyone knew, too, the fountain in the children’s park (now filled with flowers and lovingly tended by one of the ladies who lived near the park) had been their meeting-place; it was here that Amy went every day towards sun-set to wait for Ben to come riding back from the farm where he worked and there that they would talk about their future and make plans. Ben was sure that one day, he would be able to buy the farm next to Jones’s field and there he and Amy would set up a little house: a few chickens and ducks for Amy to tend, plenty of space for children to play and be happy and free…. Yes, everyone knew that story and everyone knew that Ben did not come back and that Jones’s field was no longer an open space, but part of the playing-fields of the school.

Kate loved to visit her Great-Aunt Amy and once again this is what she was doing. She would always beg her Great- Aunt to tell her the story of Ben and Amy: she even thought that her aunt had been named for that long-ago Amy of the story.

As she and her aunt were putting the finishing touches to that night’s chicken-pie supper, (Aunt Amy was actually doing the work, and Kate was shaping the cut-off pieces of dough into little gingerbread men “But without the ginger” she said and laughed at her own joke.)
“Please Aunt A, “she said, “Please tell me the story of Ben the soldier and Amy, the lady in the field.”

“Go on, “said her aunt. “ You know that story as well as I do. Why don’t you write it down? You’re always writing things in your note-book”

“I will. I will,” promised Kate,” but please, pleeeas … tell it to me again.”

“I know what you’re thinking. You imagine that the Amy of the story was really me. And you just want to have a pretty story so that you can have an excuse to wonder why I’m not married! In any case, that story happened a very long time ago and I’m not so old!”

“No, I don’t think that at all. But I really, really love that story …”

Once the chicken-pie was in the oven (“Only 30 minutes now, mind,” said great- Aunt Amy.) the two sat in the warm window-seat of the kitchen.

“Well, this story goes back a very, very long time…” began Aunt Amy…

“Amy was the daughter of a man and woman who were very rich and who lived in a very grand house on the edge of an open field. The field was known as Jones’s field because many years before, even before Amy’s family came to live in the house, a gypsy whom everyone called Jones (because they couldn’t pronounce his real name) (insert something here? Would sell pretty scarves and tin brooches or he would mend pots and pans. The field was used for fêtes and playing in. People would walk in the field and everyone enjoyed it. Sometimes, there would be picnics in the field, sometimes concerts.

“It was also a trysting place.”

“What’s that?” asked Kate.

“A place where a girl would meet her sweetheart and where they would make plans for the future.”

“Oh. I see.”

“Among the young people who would meet in the field were Ben and Amy. But their meetings had to be in secret, because Ben wasn’t rich and Amy’s father wanted her to marry a rich man, the son of a great friend so that the two families could set up their business in this town, where they would establish their own special dynasty…”

“What’s a dynasty?”

“Oh, it’s a rich, powerful family who are proud and want to be important and powerful.”

“But Ben was a farm-boy and would not even own his own horse; never mind lots of land and money.”

“That’s dreadful!”

“If you’re going to keep on interrupting, I’m not going to finish the story.”

“All right.”

“Ben and Amy met in secret and were planning that soon they would just go away and get married and then no one could do anything about things. But not many months later, war broke out and all the young men in many towns and from many villages had to go and fight.

“Ben had to go as well. One evening, instead of his clean, but rather rough, farm-clothes, he was wearing a smart new uniform: he’d come to say goodbye to Amy. ‘Be brave, and wait for me. I’ll come home soon. I’ll be a hero and then your father wouldn’t dare not let us get married.’

“And a few days later, Ben had left with the other young men, now all soldiers.

“Amy still went to the horse- fountain where she and Ben used to meet. Every day she waited for him. There was little news about the war. Once she received a grubby, smudged envelope. In it there was a short letter from Ben telling her that he was well, and that he would soon be home. The letter had a six-month-old date. Amy continued to wait.

“Months passed. A year. Two years. And still Ben did not return and there were no more letters. Some of the other young men had come back. Others hadn’t. But Amy wouldn’t believe that Ben was dead and long after it had been made known that the war was over, Amy waited every evening, just before sun-set at the fountain.

And then, on an evening when the late summer was becoming early autumn and a fresh wind announced that soon the days would change and be colder and darker, she saw coming towards her through the mists, a man on a horse. His head was bandaged, and one sleeve of his tunic was flat and empty.

“Amy ran towards the rider, her own arms outstretched…

“After that day, no one ever saw her. No one in the town had heard the horse’s hooves; other people had been walking in the park, but no one else had seen anything unusual. Yes, they’d seen Amy, but as it was getting dark and colder, they thought that she must have gone home.

“No one saw her ever again.

“Her father, almost dead from grief, Amy had been his only child, ordered that the fountain be turned into a pretty garden. He and Amy’s mother died not many years later, but there was always enough money to ensure that the horse-fountain garden was full of flowers.”

“So that is the legend of Ben and Amy. That’s why so many girls here are called Amy.”

The timer rang shrilly. “Goodness! Our pie’s cooked. Will you set the table, please dear, while I take it out of the oven?”

As Kate was setting the table for the supper, she thought about the story her Great-Aunt had told her. She placed the knives and forks correctly and then ran out quickly to the garden to pick a few fresh flowers to place in a little blue vase.

“That looks pretty, “said her aunt. “And do you know that violets were Amy’s favourite flowers?”

“Aunty A, “said Kate, “This pie’s yummy. And… do you know? I’m going to write that story tomorrow!”

Winnie Thomson

Can this be Love?

The lights in the club were dim, giving no more than a little glow; just a few candles in bottles and one or two wall lamps with low wattage bulbs. But people weren’t there to read or even to look at one another, they were there for the music- sensuous, sensual jazz floating and insinuating itself into the bodies of the dancers. Some were dancing alone, moving unselfconsciously to the tunes; some were humming softly, one girl was singing into a “mock” mike and the others at a nearby table were entranced.

It was Jane’s first visit to this club with Geoff. They’d met two or three days earlier and since then, had hardly been out of each other’s company. He dances divinely, she thought. The saxophones crooned and the drums swished and shooshed. The rhythm and the melody took hold of her and she moved with Geoff as if they were one person. He bent over her and then pulled her upright, let her go for a twirl away from him and then drew her back again. They looked into each other’s eyes, and she rested her head against his shoulder, he kissed her hair, then bent to kiss her neck and they danced and moved to the music.

Suddenly a whitish flash moved across the floor. Geoff pushed her away and ordered her to sit.

 “ Don’t say anything. I must go out for a minute.”

 Jane was puzzled, confused and suddenly sad. She also felt foolish sitting alone. The music didn’t seem so seductive and the club seedy rather than enthralling. Where could he have gone?  How would she get home? This was unfamiliar territory and the excitement of the earlier part of the evening was now replaced by a sense of danger. Geoff came back to her, muttering something about White Snow. She was alarmed and wondered if he had a cocaine habit.

 “Sorry about that,” he said, but offered no other explanation. “Let’s go to my place, it’s not far from here.”

She smiled: it was all going to be OK. And he was sexy, charming and smiling again.

 She hadn’t been to his flat. What would it be like?

It was a typical bachelor pad, not unlike her own, small, fairly comfortable, minimal furniture (without being minimalist, she thought wryly.) She’d often thought that about her own flat. I suppose one has to be really rich to live in what looks like expensive poverty. But what was different about this place was that there was a balcony high up, looking down onto a garden four, floors down. It gave the room, even in the dark, a look of extra spaciousness.

 They were drinking wine when Jane felt something moving near her legs. She dropped her glass and the wine spilled on the carpet. “Damn,” she muttered, “I’m so sorry.”
“Oh, this is White Snow,” Geoff said, lifting up a large white cat and nuzzling its fur. “Isn’t she just beautiful?”

Jane didn’t like cats, was in fact rather afraid of them, but felt that saying anything adverse would spoil the mood of the evening.

Early next morning  Jane woke and moved cautiously out of bed. She put on one of Geoff’s T-shirts and went to the kitchen to make coffee. Geoff didn’t stir and Jane looked at his sleeping form.  He’s just so gorgeous. I think I’m in love. She still didn’t know him well enough, but felt safe enough to take certain risks. If it weren’t for the cat  everything would be perfect. Perhaps his mother or his brother can take it…

Everything else was perfect: him, herself and the new confidence she was developing in making love with Geoff. “Here’s coffee…’ she started. Can I call him Darling yet? “Darling…” she said. This must be bliss: coffee in bed the next morning with your lover. It was Saturday, they didn’t have to hurry or get to work.

***

It was getting late and Jane was already in the flat. She found the novelty of living here with her man – her man, my man, she would say to Esther, her friend at work – and thinking of it as home, even after two months, exciting. It had been quite an upheaval for Jane to move there, but she did agree that it was a bit bigger than her own flat and the gardens seen from the balcony was a real bonus.

 Geoff opened the door.

 “Sorry I’m late my little darling,” he said and kissed her. “My little girl,” he murmured, nuzzling her hair as he’d taken to doing. Jane wasn’t sure how much she liked the diminutives and he also used similar words when he spoke to the cat. The cat had stayed.

 “Not negotiable,” he’d said. “Mum’s in a retirement complex where they don’t allow animals and my brother’s in Australia. No, White Beauty stays here.”

“I thought its name was White Snow.”

 “HER name, not its name!”

 He spoke quite sharply. “But it’s all the same: she’s my White Beauty, Snow Baby.”

 “Where’s Daddy’s love then?” he called. The large white cat  sauntered inside from the balcony.

“I’m going to have a shower,” and he picked up the cat and placed it on his shoulders.

Is he going to wash the blasted animal?

 Ten minutes later, showered, changed into casuals, he came into the sitting room, with the cat draped across his shoulders like a fur.

 Doesn’t he realize how hot it is?

He mumbled baby words into the cat’s fur and nuzzled it. He was doing that to me a few weeks ago, and I loved it. Now it makes me feel sick.

“How about some drinks sweetie?”

Does he mean for me or for the cat?

“They’re ready on the balcony table, darling,” she said. “I’ll get some snacks.”

 Do cats always land on their feet when they fall? She looked down four storeys to the garden as she placed bowls of olives and pretzels on the tables.

Winnie Thomson

My soul is on hold
The water is a silver plane, jigsawed with blandness
Shifting the detritus locked in the thick sludge of the mind’s pool
Washed sanded-stone smooth simplicity

I find myself making endless lists;
then thankfully ticking off the tasks as they are done.
It is as if a stranger lives my life-
one I don’t much like.
Life is too busy,
there is a space now sold,
to this stranger.
Who is this person,
visiting me, taking hold?
Even my soul is on hold.

The iodine smell of the sea: It is so still, so lovely – always –
like a new page, a new beginning.
Can I assume this person, this persona? Make it/her mine?
Can I absorb this beauty, this goodness?
Look at,  gaze at, the sea.
Feel its movement, its strength and life.
Be part of this place, this vastness.
The water is a silver plate, jigsawed with dark grey blandness.

My black bag, too full, too heavy
swings on its leather strap;
thumps against my side.-
-At least I know it’s still  there!-
I bow my head against the rain, no coat, no umbrella, just the heavy bag.
 I dodge the milling crowd.
Lights in the shops and streets shine and glisten  like jewels
in the reflected light in the black tar roadway
and make bright rainbows
in the spilled oil of roadside pools.
Shifting the detritus locked in the thick sludge of the mind’s pool.

I shake out my hair and
 towel it dry.
Change into dry, clean clothes,
and feed the cat.
Drink my tea, read the paper,
“I was wet to the bone and cold.”
I close the windows and dry the floor,
complete the crossword puzzle started yesterday,
feel at home. Stop all the rushing, am still.
And then marvel at this fragment,
washed, sanded-stone smooth simplicity.

Winnie Thomson

Jazz Villanelle

Hear  the tune of the  Duke’s Indigo Mood:
The saxophone croons its plangent notes;
Music is coaxed from brass and wood.

Rhythms of jazz, a beat of blues, a tune is cooed
In riffs from the vibes; notes scatter and float
Where is it from, this Indigo Mood?

A strain is played, melancholy, gay– a flood
 Of notes and sounds –like stars or motes
Of light: the music is coaxed from brass and wood.

In the smoky dark hall, fans sway, swoon, brood,
Held in the spell,  they smile, they muse, as those who dote
And wonder, “Where is it from, this Indigo Mood?

Beats quicken, rhythms swell  it  feels so good,
Clarinet, trombone tenor sax, combine their throat
And  music is coaxed from brass and wood.

The sax’s voice, the drummer’s swish, the percussion’s crash, all could
Make blues, ragtime, swing — in cascades of notes;
Where is it from this Indigo Mood?
The music is coaxed from brass and wood.

Winifred Thomson

One travels like a thought

The ideas came to me as I looked at
the man on the opposite seat
could he read my thoughts?

did he know what I was thinking?
I didn’t want to stare, but I did look
 and because I was looking in front of me

 I looked at him.
My first thought was, would I
let him do that to me?

WHAT??
It wasn’t love, certainly.
not even lust

would I remember him
or find him again?
no! of course not!

one travels like a thought
 and gets lost in that thought
 had he seen me looking, staring?

 Or was he lost in his thoughts?
For the record, or whatever,
 I did register his hair:

too long, very black and slightly greasy
 and his skin, too pale, Parisian winter skin;
 and the ring on his wedding finger.

When the train stopped, he got off
and said” good bye” why?
We-what?– we–? There were no other travellers

One travels like a thought.
It wasn’t rush-hour. The train wasn’t
crowded and there was no close encounter

no meeting, no conversation. Just
 the thought of me travelling
 like a thought and this was never written down-

 or spoken about
 

Winifred Thomson

The Intruders  

 Win had gone to bed earlier than me last night; she hadn’t been sleeping very well and so I said I’d sleep in Bob’s old room on the single bed.” Let her have a peaceful night,” I’d thought to myself.

 She’d put out the light at about 10-always liked to have a read in bed does Win-and then the house went quiet. I was still awake, but with the door closed so as not to disturb Win

I thought I heard a window or a door downstairs, but it might have been next-doors or Archie the cat coming in or going out.
 
Next thing I knew, there was a hell of a kerfuffle on the stairs and I heard Win’s voice. Of course I got up and went to the top of the stairs. I put the light on and then I saw this lad, no more than 18 or 19 crouching in the doorway of the bathroom. He was wearing a balaclava over his face, but I could see that he was quite a weedy little bloke.  I just grabbed him in a policeman’s grip- something I hadn’t done since I left the force more that 20 years ago. Even though I could have given him 60 years, I was much stronger. I manhandled him down the stairs because I was worried about Win: where was she?

 That question was soon answered.  They were in the kitchen: Win curlers in her hair and her glasses halfway down her nose. The other lad had one of those French Opinel knives in his hand but, and here I take off my hat to Win. She was holding the old carver in her hand (we only use it on Sundays when the kids come over for a roast, but I like to keep it sharp; it’s a good knife.) And now I could see just how good it was! Win, with that look in her eyes- frightened the daylights out of me the first time I saw it when I’d come home a little late and a little boozy- never did that again!

“ Call that a knife!” She said through her teeth – just like that fellow in that old Aussie film, Crocodile Dundee. “THIS is a knife!” and she waggled the knife in front of him, very near to his belly.

 Clutching my lad, I went to the front door and managed to open it and I yelled out into the night.  Luckily for us, a Panda car was passing

“Everything OK Sergeant Whelan?” he called.
 
”Come in! Now!!”

 Soon our little kitchen was swarming with coppers.  The two lads who thought they’d take all our silver were in the van and Win, not at all tired now, was making us tea and telling how she’d just dozed off, when she heard Archie (The cat, remember?) growling and there was this lad in her room. “Well,” she said, “I wasn’t even in the mood for our Fred here, let alone for him and his knife!”