Strange - the meaning of memories.
This one, out of the blue from years ago
when we stayed at Argelès-sur-mer
one sullen October, in a friend’s house,
tiny - a holiday home. Inside, we moved around
tense, awkward, feeling too large,
afraid of the washing machine,
unable to find the tea-pot.
Walking along the deserted shingle beach
looking for things - stones, driftwood,
wrapped in our silence and anoraks,
we wondered why we’d come.
All that way for this - a chill wind off the sea,
shuttered hamburger stalls, a coastline
that dribbled concrete boxes
as far down as Collioure.
Still, it was a break, we said,
and once or twice used the bicycles
to feel we were away - holidaying
in the south of France, so to speak.
But all this is after-thought, not the instant
that first came back to me - clear,
sudden, unheralded: the night
we dined outside at St Cyprien.
Not far north along the sea-road -
a couple of places still open,
ices, pizzas, fruits de mer -
though I can’t remember what we ate.
Alone at the empty tables, dimly lit by globe lamps
from the edge of the esplanade,
we felt the damp air of Autumn,
our distance from home.
We sat and talked a bit, waiting
for our meal, comfortably getting on
together, and in years - not warm
but pleased to be outside. You shivered
and pulled your coat more closely round your shoulders.
And that’s it, the memory flash,
a doorway light catching your hair,
your glow in the darkness.
© 2007 Brian Hughes