Rosie Jackson

 

 

 

The Ashmolean is Closed

We’ve Skyped a few times, he’s a Quaker, seems sane,
so I agree to a date, do Sudoku on the train,
meet him at the station with a head full of numbers
(eleventh hour, third age), we talk in code, walk
by the Thames, detour through the cemetery of Saint Sepulchre
where headstones crave permission to lie down.
When we reach the Quaker meeting house, which smells
of biscuits and philanthropy, he tells me there is no God,
while out in the streets, Oxford’s polish is wearing thin,
the pavements house more beggars than a rich city
should boast. Near the market, a homeless woman speaks
to him in tongues, he buys me over-sweet flapjack,
talks about his three wives, four sons, five dogs, six decades,
and when I look down, his flimsy shoes are not the footwear
to walk with me over hot coals, high mountains. I feel
my heart divide to keep itself company, suggest we go,
as planned, to the Ashmolean, where Botticelli surely
will redeem the day, Samuel Palmer will save me,
but when we get there, the museum’s closed – hasn’t he lived
in this shining city long enough to know the Ashmolean
shuts on Mondays? – so he takes me in his car to meander
past places where he’s worked – hospitals, institutions
for the less than fully sane, insists his patients loved him,
tells me tales that should be zipped into non-disclosure pants.
And I see him as an animal rolling, long after early retirement,
in the left-behind scent of other peoples’ lives –
their broken lives, their secrets – and the smell’s too much,
I rush to the train, dig out my unfinished Sudoku,
press into each remaining space my blessed singleness
one, one, one, one, one.

 

 

Rosie Jackson lives in Somerset. Publications include What the Ground Holds (2014), The Light Box (2016), The Glass Mother: A Memoir (2016). She won 1st prize at Wells, 2018. Two Rivers Press will publish Two Girls and a Beehive (poems about Spencer) in 2020. www.rosiejackson.org.uk  

 

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