In Memoriam Will Smith 1882-1916
A small English town
beside the sea –
a broken jetty
and clouds over the water –
swag bags of rain slung
over shoulders, slate grey clouds
that don’t look back.
The usual sense of life
that’s vanished from a port once busy,
clamorous with loading, shouts,
the rattle of a chain against a capstan –
And in a narrow street,
a flower shop. A young woman
pushes the door open, calls out –
I thought that you were closed!
And I think of the flower shop
near the train station
in Albert. Where I chose
a pot of red roses.
The smiling shopkeeper,
the politesse and conversation –
winter morning, bright with sunshine.
I had just arrived in Paris,
took an early morning train,
changed at Amiens, for Albert.
The florist wrapped the roses
in shiny cellophane, red ribbon.
How could I stop him?
I’d hardly slept, I’d travelled overnight,
I’d only just arrived.
The train passed through a landscape
wrapped in cloud
as if it was a bouquet,
offered as a gift.
And then, arriving in Albert,
walking from the gare SNCF
the sun burst out of its confining cowl of cloud
and flung open the sky.
My fingers ripped the cellophane,
tore apart the careful curls of ribbon,
in the high wind, in the cemetery.
I pushed the roses deep into the earth,
beside the headstone,
placed there almost a century ago.
In a little English town, months later,
I pass a flower shop
just before the clouds swamp
the streets with rain.
Picardie, red roses
and the fierce light
lashed to the horizon,
tilting, like a boat at sea.
Musée Flaubert, Rouen
Flaubert's green stuffed parrot
is enclosed inside protective glass –
it's a day in early autumn –
no other visitors –
sunlight in the empty garden.
The walls of Flaubert's room
have been repapered
with the original design.
In his portrait he wears
fashionable floppy neckwear.
The polished floorboards creak,
light falls through the windows.
A bust of Asklepios appears,
like an old friend.
It is a myth that writers
are most present in their studies,
at their desks, congealed in time,
where they penned their famous works.
No, you'll find them in the streets
or sitting outside cafés
peering curiously at the passers-by –
scribbling down those luminous
Or in the Musée des Beaux Arts perhaps,
among the crowd come up from Paris,
so they say, to see
the dazzling images –
some blurred with rain, or pale with mist –
of Rouen. Walk outside
and the autumn-coloured buildings –
red and yellow-painted wooden timbers –
blaze in light.
I walk home across the Pont Jeanne d'Arc
and when I pull postcards and purse
out of my bag
beside the yellow tarte au citron
a yellow leaf falls out.
Morelle Smith studied English and French Literature at Edinburgh University (a long time ago); writing and travelling have been the main themes in her life. She has had various jobs, many of them involving teaching adults – subjects have included French, English as a Second Language and Creative Writing. She has also been an aid worker in Albania.
These days Morelle focuses mainly on writing – poetry, travel articles, fiction and translation – and she has had various poems, stories, articles and books published. You can find more of Morelle's poems on these websites: Scottish PEN, mediterranean poetry and Ellen And Jim Have A Blog, Two. Her poems have been published in magazines such as Poetry Scotland, Poetry Cornwall, Poetry Monthly, New Writing Scotland, The Salmon, Crannog, and Chapman, and in anthologies such as Scottish Literature in the 20th Century and Anthology of Scottish Women Poets. Some of her poems have been translated into French, Albanian, Romanian and Bulgarian. Morelle's blog on writing and travel is rivertrain.