I got to looking at this dressing table,
the one we share, my wife and I,
plain white painted wood with a backing mirror,
she has the right side, I have the left.
Between in no man’s land presides
a large moon-faced Akuaba, mother goddess
of Ghana, whose tranquil gaze takes in
impassively three family photographs—
two nieces and a son and daughter.
Just now, my side is cluttered and untidy,
I admit. Some things are always there,
my mother’s crystal ball in which
I’ve never seen the future, or anything at all,
the wooden inlaid Indian box for polished stones
and pendants, the Polish leather pencil case
from Zakopanie, a wallet with my banker’s card
and sundry papers, all these I keep upon my side
and would expect to find them there,
but all these other things—a tennis ball,
a plastic can of cashew nuts, “More Poetry Please”,
a pack of pancreatic enzymes for the stomach
(three times a day with food) ,
an “England’s Glory” box of matches,
a notebook, spiral bound, the pages
filled with useful phrases in Tigrinya,
and so it goes—a five-pence piece,
a lens, a box for holding moths without a lid,
a trading card from Carol Nashe promoting
best deals in motorbike insurance,
a pile of coppers emptied from my trouser pockets every night,
a two-pin plug for continental sockets,
a tape cassette, a Royal Navy seaman’s knife,
a tattered clipboard and two AA batteries, now spent.
My wife’s side seems by contrast almost bare,
a box for jewellery on which there sits
a leather purse that holds an antique cameo brooch;
it shows a lady in a dress beneath a tree
beside a hunting dog and what appears to be
a goat—it was my grandmother’s once, I think.
Next to it is a plastic stand on which like Noah’s ark,
two by two, neat pairs of earrings hang,
half-moons and moondrops, clear stones,
galactic spirals, silver ankhs and flowers,
two cats and a pair of silver hares. Not much besides,
just a long-tailed comb and a fluff of cotton wool,
a pebble picked up from the beach, now dull,
a small shell, and a length of folded string.
Tomorrow I have resolved to put my side in order.