By Alice Wooledge Salmon
Footnotes to l’Amour
1 — When ‘I’ll be there!’ (most promising words in the English language) has mutated to betrayal, the imposter’s birthday text, his 3-month, 6-month messages are best ignored. The certainty/uncertainty of silence fulfils the imperative.
2 — Garage forecourt flowers, pulled from plastic. Never more than the single, skimpy, even-numbered bunch, putting me in mind of a very old she-says – he-says: ‘The food here is terrible!’ — ‘Yeah, and such small portions.’ Should have alerted me.
3 — As did the descent from fascination: ‘You never release me from my tenterhooks, but sometimes you alter the position’ to chasms of mindful avoidance: ‘I can’t make a date in advance, it spoils the now’.
4 — Gratifying that his succession of how-could-anyone? presents should fetch so little at the car boot sale. Where my other discards did tolerably well.
5 — Approaching midnight, I turn off lights in favour of the lamp at the foot of my bed, and the plumped white duvet springs into view. Firm mattress, ample size, warmed by gradations of heat, embrace confined to the sumptuous, luxuriant, never-long-enough arms of Morpheus.
* * *
Trains that clatter east and west — Clapham Junction for Waterloo-Victoria, back and then beyond — flash along rooftops
______ layering the valley
____________ where brick terraces scoop descent
________________________________ from Lavender Hill
to the railway embankment across Battersea’s flood plain.
Stock chimney and party parapet, pitched slate and red ridge construct an architectural rug through whose sunlit fringe — chimneypots, aerials, bare upstanding branches — glide (or so it seems) the multi-coloured carriages of Southern and South West Trains.
Regiments of Gothic Victorian, corner turrets, low gables estate-badged with a fussy stucco meringue, and besides the solo cyclist, G1 bus and a pinned-up notice for ‘found cat’, desertion to comfort the apprehensive driver of a motoring-school Vauxhall.
Why no scent of coffee wreathing Nero Roasting’s warehouse peaks dropped between embankment and a further succession of tracks? Ages-faded, the stink and tang of street sweat and horse dung, outside lav and burning coal.
And so dispersed, every plume of smoke from locomotive and urban grain, the better to distinguish, from eastbound bus along Lavender Hill, Brighton trains as they green-skim the housetops and red-carriage streamers that exaggerate to Surbiton, clock a blue-livery fleet as it skates the way to Windsor: ‘Blue as in “blood”, in honour’, assures Gary at the Junction, ‘of Her Majesty the Queen’.
* * *
Alice Wooledge Salmon, an American writer adopted by London and Paris, produces essays and short stories for such as PN Review, The Guardian, Tears in the Fence, Stand, The Frogmore Papers, Pen Pusher, and elsewhere. Her occasional subject is wine.