"In Black Ink": a poem by Dannie Abse

(Anniversary poem for Leo)

(Anniversary poem for Leo)

Seen through a tear the world's a blur.
No rainbow on an eyelash.

It was the morning of the black tie
– no confident peacock strut.
Mourners under dark umbrellas.

Yit-ga-dal ve-yit-ka-dash . . .

In the house behind shut gates
the sadness of unused things.
All was grievous-gray, all was plain
as the stony tablets of the law;
and I thought how I used to scold you
for your peacock's display on Budget Day,
how then, mischievous, you'd scald me,
“You're so bourgeois, so tame. Be bold,
pitch your tent beneath Vesuvius."

Once together by Roath Park Lake,
at the slow-motion sunset hour,
we both were blessed and dressed in colour.

Dear brother, MP for Happiness, master-
politician, what an elative time
to recite the gospel of the secular!

Later, to those dispossessed, defeated,
in doldrums or in perdition,
you'd render all the light you were.

Now you've been dead three war-scoured years
and your Joseph coat's in rags. The sun's
retreated. Winter weather. And I recall
the sour chant of Hebrew prayer.

Yit-ga-dal ve-yit-ka-dash . . .

"Stubborn," you said. "I had to be stubborn
to pass each bill." Back home ex-miners
sang in hunger, "Bread of Heaven".

Outrageous One, I write these lines for you
in modest ink, with fraternal love,
and hear the mocking laughter of the dead.
You wink, you sigh, "Use a peacock's feather."

This article first appeared in the 10 October 2011 issue of the New Statesman, The next great depression