The plate collector assiduously collects bone china ornaments to decorate his bungalow walls, and the empty spaces above ‘the dusty piano.’ Winged nymphs in muted sepia’ become symbolic of his ageing body suggesting that the end is imminent.
Seems odd for an old Brit.
One would expect stamps in plastic sleeves,
or coins tucked into pleated cardboard.
But Peter collects dishes to decorate
his bungalow walls, like the Arthur Rackham fairies
over the dusty piano, depicting the four seasons,
winged nymphs in muted sepia,
playing among wildflowers and webs.
The Chaucer plates in the dining room
hang a handful of pilgrims, displaced from Canterbury
to Chicago: the gap-toothed Wife of Bath rides
next to the Miller telling his bawdy tale,
and the Franklin somehow stuck between the Knight
and the Nun’s Priest.
The kitchen’s an unlikely place
for the gilded Book of Kells, the stately
Durham Cathedral in green gardens, St. George
slaying the dragon on a white horse rearing above
the poached eggs, and the Spitfire spotted years ago
in the skies above Manchester, humming over
a Formica table set with one plain ceramic plate.
Peter is penciling the Times crossword
with a mug of heavily sugared coffee, raising his eyes
occasionally to the snow falling outside. His bones
are old now, as old as the bone china sentinels
that guard his breakfast, weighing down the walls
with their sagacity. His world is edged in gold,
the past and future painted with the sweetness
of pulverized death.