The Window Seat

The Window Seat

Next to the side door,
Which leads into the garden
—a grand word for a narrow track
beaten through the grass and cow parsley—
There is a window.
It is wide, deep,
Wrought with Georgian proportions.
Its shutters, paint-stuck and folded,
Reach the ceiling
And, in the mornings,
Its panes turn to wetted gold.

The seat was there when we moved in.
It fills the whole of the space,
Its heavy, hinged lid
Trapping the musty smells
Of long-gone years
And other people’s linens.
You joked we could stash bodies in there,
And no-one would ever know.

As far as I’m aware,
We have not done so yet.

The cushions are worn, thinned
Since the last of their many reupholsterings.
That most recent reconstruction
Must have been decades ago.
The fabric is threadbare,
Its colour dimmed from the original light blue,
Greyed like a washed-out summer sky.
Sprigs of flowers dot that paled ground
In pleasing tones of yellowish cream.
If, once, they were brilliant white,
Then their decay has not been obscene.

When we came here,
Just these few short weeks ago,
We said we must fix things;
Brighten up the paintwork
And recover the window seat.
You set two cushions on it from your mother’s house,
Violent tones of burnt orange
And ruddy pink
With kantha stitches
Running in livid layers across their faces.
You said it was a start
But they clashed horribly, and I laughed.
You’ve worked hard this month
And for that I have to thank you.

As my damp, tired feet
Bear me in now,
First crop from this new garden
Cradled in the rubber trug I carry,
I see you.
You sit upon the window seat,
One leg up, your brown foot bare
And your ankle half-bent.
Your head is tucked to your chest, your back
Pressed to the edge of those paint-choked shutters
That we don’t even know will open,
And your eyes are closed.
I can’t tell if you’re sleeping
Or just resting
And it seems that so much about you
Is yet unknown.
Your clothes are grubby, smeared with paint,
Not to mention the traces of
Plaster dust that have settled in your hair.

You have never looked better
And, I suppose, as the dusk begins to cleave
To the windowpane,
There is no shame
In a thing which is worn out
Through love.

© Anna Reith. All rights reserved.

Available in the print volume House of Choices: collected poems.