by Tony Curtis
When they visit she likes to pick up pots and shells
and re-arrange the framed family photographs.
Can I hold the rabbit, Tadcu?
Of course she can, but, Look at those ears - it’s a hare.
Solid chrome by Louis Lejeune, standing tall
with its thread for screw-fixing to the radiator cap
of the pre-war Alvis we had sometime in the ‘Fifties
sequence of Ford Prefects, Austin Sevens, Morris Minors.
Tadcu, tell me why the hare’s car had a hole in the floor.
And again I try to explain about the foot well in the back,
how that would have been for her brogues
after walking the estate, shooting, or at the hunt; high heels
slipped off on the way back from the mayor’s ball.
But I could park my Dinky cars down there and drive them with my toes.
I’d stand on the seat exchanging salutes with the AA man on his motorbike;
but cwtch down on worn leather for Radio Luxemburg’s Top Twenty in the dark.
All our expeditions were logged by my mother in a book–
from Carmarthen the long way around the Severn,
through Gloucester and up the Air Balloon to the cousins in Newbury.
West to the cousins in Kilgetty and Pwllcrochan
through Bancyfelin and Llandowror’s dark wood,
then Llanteg and the county line where, my father declared,
the weather always became Pembrokeshire fine.
Once to Lynton and Lynmouth to see the devastation of the flood.
All this, like the hare, has too much weight
when I hand it to her,
its long ears crossing at the tips, alert,
its haunches and its front paws ready to spring.
She needs both hands to hold the Alvis mascot,
which must feel dead, like a cold silver thing
from a distant life, and will not easily travel
across the years to where we are.
Claude and Chouchou at Le Moulleau, 1916
by Tony Curtis
It is cool beneath the pines where they sit
after their hard climb over the Dune du Pilat
with their picnic under its cloth in the basket.
A father and daughter in the sea breeze
and shadows - En blanc et noir.
He still wears a striped, light summer suit,
bow tie and a straw boater, but his eyes
are furrowed behind his wire-framed glasses.
Chouchou in a white, loose dress and her large, floppy hat
with the white flower appliquéd; her holiday shoes
from which she has shaken the sand.
The sound of the sea-shore soothes -
they are two years into a war that may never end;
he has cancer and she will die of diphtheria within a year.
But for this afternoon the sun swims through the trees;
she will close her eyes and hear the Atlantic playing its etudes
and her father’s La Mer.
They are miles further south from la cathédrale engloutie,
the rough coast and myths of Brittany.
High above this town is Notre-Dame des Passes;
they have climbed all those church steps and looked across
at Cap Ferret’s lighthouse, its red dome bright
against the two clear blues of sky and sea.
Everything will be precious from this day,
these hours taken from painful times.
As Emma’s camera fixes their lives in this moment
their dog has heard something in the pines
and turns its head to look away.
Tony Curtis is emeritus Professor of Poetry at the University of South Wales. His From the Fortunate Isles: New & Selected Poems was published by Seren in 2016 and in 2017 Cinnamon Press published his selected short stories Some Kind of Immortality. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society for Literature. Tony is currently working on a new collection of poems as well as a novel set in wartime Paris – Darkness in the City of Light.