This week’s poem is from Paul Henry’s fifth collection, Ingrid’s Husband, first published in 2007.
Here is a book of ghosts, from the mysterious traveller in the title poem who, mistaken for another man, starts to crave his new alter ego, to the first person of ‘Between Two Bridges’, Henry’s long poem on Newport, who follows his teenage ghost across the city for a night:
He pulls away. The wind puts its lips to an arcade.
A seagull on a barber’s pole waits to open its blades.
How the living haunt themselves is the concern of Ingrid’s Husband, and the author discovers his spirits through an imagery of absences: a child’s signature in the dust of an old guitar; the stone plinth where a cafe once stood; a white balloon drifting down a shopping arcade; a chateau, still furnished with belongings of its vanished owner…. Love continues to underscore the commonplace in Paul Henry’s fifth collection and this lyric poet’s distinctive voice continues to haunt its readers.
The Snow Dome
First sun, then snow … my father floats up the lane
in white jeans, a white rose in his claw.
He cuts a Lear-like figure, drifting alone
through the sun and snow.
Wherever you mother goes, I follow
he mutters, brushing the icing from her stone,
its doorstep to a colder house. It snows
and shines about the ornamental scene.
We can’t see for the petals of the rose.
He says she kissed his bald head in the lane,
first with sun, then snow.