Lives looking in — Joseph Woods


‘Windermere’ etched on a white marble gatepost.
A few relics and leftovers like that. Strolling up the road
of mostly crumbling colonial villas and what one can glimpse
of their interiors appears all hollowed out in black. Rarely lit
they are veiled by dark greenery, brief dusk and disappeared
by relentless power cuts. Rangoon retains some secrets still.
A houseguard’s hut, empty, save for a concealed transistor
tinkling what sounds like a Bollywood tune for none.

He’s to be found in the compound staring at TV through
a window grille, while the family huddle round a preposterious
plasma screen and no doubt the very latest in Korean melodrama…
Thrushcross Grange, wasn’t it? Those two tearaways creeping up
to the unshuttered windows of imagined happy families to find
the Linton brats baying, screaming blue murder and the dog
on the table yelping…

That draughty oversized hunter’s lodge you grew up in
east of nowhere, when, with all the men gone to the pub,
you the delicate one, settled down with your mother
for a crucial episode of Dallas. A bat swooped into the scullery
and annexed the kitchen to the opening theme. Sending mother
and son shrieking, routed and reduced to watching in
from the dark yard. Desperately lip reading, while the bat
had until closing time to lord over it all.

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Joseph Woods has published three award-winning collections of poetry and now lives in Rangoon, Burma.