Her garden is scented
with the colours of the Lord:
the purples and ochres and
flaming reds of salvation.
At her feet a shiny beetle
skittles through the cut grass,
his shell a black cloak,
his horns confirm he belongs
to the devil. Miss Carstairs inspects
her geraniums like King Edward
inspects the trooping of the colour.
Behind her old Mrs Fisher reads from
a sand-brittle letter. 'We are being
shelled night and day. The desert is hell
upon earth. Daventry-Greene took one
in the chest. Slim rate of survival.
A Vickers gun is all that stands
between victory and death.'
Miss Carstairs pinches a bud
the same shape as her Victorian bob.
It succumbs to her convective touch,
explodes a vapour trail of perfume.
'There are good days and bad. Our generals
lead from the rear. Only two months
my darling and I'll be with you
again, sitting by the fireside with
a glass of vintage port.' In the splendour
of her black dress Miss Carstairs advances
towards her azaleas, nipping dead leaves
with her seceteurs. Old Mrs Fisher
struggles to keep up. 'Will that be all,
Ma'am ?' A wave of the hand: Yes, Mrs Fisher -
that will be all. Another insect - a flyer,
this time. Miss Carstairs brings it down with
her passementerie sleeves. Nothing
will deter us in our grand purpose, she says,
and offers a silent prayer for the living
and the recently dead. A bell rings.
It is time for tea. Miss Carstairs
walks towards the glass domed gazebo
its faded rattan laid with cushions
and draped in a freshly laundered coth.
The Lord has bestowed His colours on all
our gardens and they are good.