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Invisible practice

The many summers in the seaward skerries, they always

remained. A simple cottage, no electricity, a table,

a couple of chairs and a bunk bed

where they slept like siblings. The kitchen equipment

was junk; they took turns at

making boeuf stroganoff in the coffee pot. Even

then he let her do the talking,

long before they retired.

She dreamed of men in grey, he of

ignored call-up papers. If there was a gale

he might sit on the veranda and

observe how the gulls lay in the wind. She thought

on the journey over, how

the gentlemen had led the whooping ladies

over the shining parquetry. Jitterbug!

Sometimes the farm workers came rattling by

on their poison carts, armed to the teeth like soldiers.

Out in the shallow bay

stood a half-upturned tree that had stayed

under water. A few green leaves always stuck

out on the uppermost branches, like

as SOS flag from the underworld. Every summer

they were going to salvage the tree, chop it down,

burn it up, whatever. But it was never

done. Year after year it stood there with

its arms raised, struggled its way step by step

closer to the shore. When it got there

they had learned how to die.

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