Jackie Kay

1961 / Edinburgh / Scotland

Castletown, Isle of Man

How strange the way old lovers move into the present,
tense, and catch you off guard; you tell me
when you were here last you'd taken the steam train to a place
whose name you've forgotten, and found a tapas bar.
Going to that island is like going back to the past.

Once we would have drunk a glass of red together
in the Garrison, or waved in unison at the mother
and child in that back garden waving at this steam train.
I see what you mean, I think to myself, I see what you mean,
waving on my own to the time before I was born.

These days we travel to the same places alone:
first you, then me, to this small, half-way island.
I pick up your scent round the narrow cobbled streets,
the medieval castle grounds, through the Market Square:
I stare at the dreamy boats coming into the harbour,

then conjure you, my ex-lover, in the Old House of Keys:
walking along the long and dimly-lit corridor,
across the stone floor - candle in hand - to friendship
carrying the low flame of the past, still flickering, just the same,
into the present, to the place that has no satisfactory name.
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