Next door but one

Ron? He was Saxon. He had mad blue eyes.
When angry, his voice rose in his great head,
Spoke English which I could not recognise.
"Dressed like a fourpenny hambone," he once said
Of an adventuring woman. Grudges poured
Their bile down years: holes in his stockade fence,
His sister's filchings from his mother's hoard.

He was a builder. He laid bricks like silk.
Construction lecturers in their sheepskin coats
Stared, at the college where I started work,
As Ron slapped down each row; though they took note
The walls grew lower and the bills more bold
As Ron's two useless sons, who died before him,
Botched other halls and sheds, as Ron grew old.

I say Ron was. Ron is, my riddling neighbour.
Why did we never quarrel? I was vague,
Lived half outdoors, in gardens. Ron would lumber
Across my sun, to launch each new tirade.
Once he was loaned a dog, was briefly full
Of purpose; after, faced TV's blue eye
Alone. Now he lies beached in hospital.

"Beowulf" is singing on the radio.
The huddled cats and I hear every night
Beasts raid the well-built quarters. Long ago
I saw in them the glamour of the night.
In their pupils I swim now, grey, shrunken, where
With massive forearm on the unmapped sheets
Ron faces down the monster, glare for glare.

Alison Brackenbury

If you've any comments on this poem, Alison Brackenbury would be pleased to hear from you.

{short description of image}