Paul Archer - photo Paul Archer - poet, translator



Knee-Length Brown Leather Boots

You in your knee-length boots
Striding down outside St John's
And I, on the opposite side
Of the street creeping along
Numbed by your letter,
Could've missed each other
And that second, or was it
Third chance? Taking our
Being out as a sign of getting on
With things, by your seeing my
Silence as one of acceptance,
My accepting your absence as proof
That your letter saying it was over,
Was the final note, the last word,

If my dull eyes hadn't drifted up
From the grey pavement plodding
Under my weak-kneed feet
To see you striding down the far
Side of the avenue of St Giles
In your knee-length brown boots.
Just as now I look up from this
And see you again, there, now.
And now gone behind the trees
And parked cars. I crossed
The street to run up behind you
And spin round in in your way and
You stopped, rooted by surprise.

We stared out a long moment
And then you said 'I'm so sorry'.
I stepped forward and you laid
Your head on my shoulder.
I can feel the cold white skin
Of your cheek, even now.
And in that time-free, world-free
Space our meandering rivers
Remerged, swollen by meltwater
Surging from solitary icy peaks.

We separated a year later.
You stood over me packing
My bags saying, "I still love you."
Three decades of silence.
Then I learn that you married
Not long afterwards and bore
Two kids that now must be older
Than the age we were then.
But perhaps you still remember,
That endless winter night when
You strode in your Jaeger coat
And your brown knee-length
Boots towards my room?
That's how I knew it was you,
Those boots, the sound they made,
Clip - clip in the cold Oxford air.


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