Waiting for Robert

by Helen Mort

We have lived here for centuries,
Ginger and me.
Pressed close between the dust-sheets,
We wait for my Robert to return.
 
I pretend to make tea at six.
Pretend. Just think about it,
In case, by chance, he might
Walk in find me unprepared.
Ginger chases spiders, he
Crushes and crunches
Their black ooze between his jaws
And turns his eyes –
Gleaming emerald coals
Set high in his face –
To look, and stare
And ask me if he was right.
And I have to scold: tell him
 
“No, bad Ginger,
Bad boy, for we have food.”
And though it is a lie,
He will slink, silken and obedient,
As a slip of amber
To the cupboard by the stair.
 
The windows are my eyes.
They are impassive, they
Stare neutrally at the grey outside,
And the sprawl, the
Long reptilian spine
Of the moor
And the sky,
Soft sky, the sky
That is never full of clouds.
The windows watch for me
And they are full of cobwebs,
Like my own eyes.
 
Time stands still.
The clocks have long since stopped
And if the ticks do not tick,
There must be no time.
So we are caught in a frieze, Ginger and me.
We are stuck here in our
Dusty little refuge.
The one thing I never
Think of is the battle.
The one thing I never
Think is that he might be dead.
 
We have lived here for centuries
Ginger and me,
And I have never banished
The clockwork shadows from the walls.