Heart of Gold
His garden was slightly uneven, slightly tiered
From early February’s putting on of scattered beauty –
Snowdrops and crocuses –
Through a cascade of shade and colour
His garden bloomed throughout the growing year.
Wild primroses, crocus and aubrietia
Then larkspur, delphinium and the beautiful bluebells
Carnations, cornflower and iris.
Tier after tier cultivated by a hidden gardener.
Until one early summer morning, right early,
I saw Alf padding about.
He was doing little but looking, dressed in carpet slippers
The high colouring of a boozer or of hypertension or both
I muttered a quick Hello’ and walked on.
Over our many, but too few by far, early morning chats after that
I discovered Alf – the more than occasional gardener –
Knew that the word ‘bungalow’ came from the Hindi
Word baṅglā meaning ‘belonging to Bengal’
He’d been in India during the long withdrawing roar
Of empire. All he’d wanted was to get back home after
Four years fighting the Japanese in Burma:
‘Why’d we bother?’ he’d said, ‘All those young lads, dead.”
“Aye, well must get on.” That was the last thing he said to me.
Looking at me as if he couldn’t believe the man he’d been…
Alf died last year and, as he’d foretold, all his spring bulbs
Were buried beneath a thick wad of concrete.
“For parking” his grandson curtly said..