TJ (17th June 1958 / England)

The Gossamer Ghosts Of May

I was on a ‘bit of a roll’ really:
The day, thus far anyway, had not lounged as some somnolent Lion,
So much as chased the day’s prey like a hungry Cheetah
Out on the endless plains of Higher Education.

Tutorials – showdowns for angry young ‘Rhinos’:
Lazy ‘Johnny-Come-Latelys’ – all bulk and no brain.

Seminars – exam revision for mercurial Meercats,
Suddenly transmogrified into question-spotting sentries and sentinels
Scanning the far horizon for the merest hint of a hint.

Email Inbox – herds of digitally-enhanced Wildebeeste
Driven by some primal urge
To hurl themselves headlong and senseless against the other side of my screen.

To this point I was still in control – still ‘on that roll’:
Nothing on the plains to phase me
Yet for all my native training and vision
Unaware I was being softly stalked,
Tenderly traced and tracked.


A shrill cry from the office undergrowth nearby –
My hand shot out without look or thought
To fasten my fingers around
The slender, yet surprisingly cool, neck of my quarry
To lift the creature, suddenly shocked into silence, aloft,
Its open jaw pressed firmly to the side of my face.

“Good afternoon...Tony Jolley…”………………….

The call of the wild duly answered with the traditional ritual,
I waited.
Waited; coiled yet confident.
Still in control.
Still ‘on that roll’.


I knew.
I knew before I knew who,
That this was an encounter of an altogether different dimension,
For the answering silence was too loud…too long;
Effectively giving away your position
Whilst yet concealing your identity: your mission.

“Hello, Tony…. It’s Debbie.”…………………..

The tall, sun-scorched savannah grasses
Waved, unhelpfully, across my memory’s line of sight:
A veil too light, too intangible to lift,
Gossamer ghosts, morning mist.

‘You could hide an entire pride in there –
At three or four Debbies a year for fifteen years –
A pride of fifty….’
…Then- it hit me:
Not a Debbie:
The Debbie.
My Debbie.
And not fifteen years: twenty.


My coil relaxed, unwound, serpent-like, of its own volition
Its widening orbits releasing captive muscles of ancient aspiration
From their life-sentence incarceration
To flex free and move and breathe
And dare to dream and hope again.

I saw this slow-motion unravelling,
Watched it, as if a spectator, from the bleachers in the Stadium of Me,
It was so slow as to be almost imperceptible
To all but the naked heart of the most ardent of supporters.
The process began after realisation -
Was finished before any conversation:
Less than a second on the telephone line
Relativity at work wound back to our time.

Small ‘how are you’ conventions completed,
I could feel my spirit shouting; no, singing:
‘She’s here! – She’s here! My Debbie’s here! ’
And wondering whether you might hear,
No.
Hoping you could.
Praying you would.
Thereafter I would know why the disciples were
Thought to be ‘drunk’ at Pentecost
For I had both Joni Mitchell’s and Diana Krall’s
‘Case(s) of you’ inside me:
Sweet white invasion -
Tender red intoxication.
[I Preferred Diana’s wine – but that is for another time.]

I could recount the sad news imparted:
The friend we loved barely days departed.
I might equally mention milestones shared
And not forget those moments compared,
But that would be to miss what words could never say:
That our future had become one that day.

Receiver to rest, the sounds of the Savannah returned
But kept a respectful distance
As if they were aware the world had changed its tune.
The peace confirmed what Silence already knew
That Iowa was once Savannah too
That you love me and I love you,
That we would soon be one, not two.

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