Christmases Past. by Robert Lowe

In a nineteenth century Paris poster
By Toulouse Lautrec, masked faces appear;
Nowhere is their habitation. They smile,
Ecstatic in a knowledge of secrets:
There they are, in half-dismantled places
That memory holds with queues of scaffolding;
Though from the shipwreck rises song like this.
The cries of drowned mariners fill all thoughts.

Mr Hester and Mr Sharpe are there:
One thin, and broadly smiling, one most dour
(A monk’s ring of hair dandruffs his jacket) –
Both colleagues of workdays long gone, where
We sold electrical wholesale house-ware.

Lunches I ate in Italian cafes,
Where waitresses served “ship’s heart” and two veg.;
And this was another sort of knowledge.
Now I am old, and much is forgotten;
Preparing, perhaps, for forgetting all?
They take their place in the new-hulled spaces,
Four days after the shortest day; in here –
Displacing the order of Christmas stores

So fully, I feel my head will explode.
A pressure will flood to the yard outside.
It will gurgle through drains, and make this poem;
Whilst small birds forage, and some of them freeze,
In this edge of time which breathing things share.