The Girls of St. Hilda’s
Liz describes the class reunion.
Every year, school chums
gather like blackbirds in a tree,
singing for just one day
in a far corner of England.
The rest of the year, their faces
float like star dancers
among geraniums and folded socks,
hover like apples at the lip of a bowl,
drift like clouds in a crocodile sky.
Memories are silvery things.
They arrive at the hour of the traces
like little shells, bird skulls,
bits of straw, the puffed gills
of fish, a knife lodged in bread.
Once, everything was possible.
Then one spring, the smell of earth
was stronger than before, the scent
of lengthening shadows darker,
the irrevocable order of events
finally visible in the setting sun.
The children have left home,
husbands have died or play golf for escape.
The old scholars in pearls
have learned to be alone,
to make art from catastrophe,
traveling infinite distances every year
back into each others’ arms,
sitting again at wooden desks with inkwells
among walls painted brown and cream,
then sipping strong tea and sherry in the parlour.
The sleeves of their cashmere sweaters,
brush the tops of pastries, the watercress memories,
the trays of crustless sandwiches
garnished with cucumber smiles.