From the poem
R L Fielding
The gentle lap of the river on the boat's sides kept pace with the splash of oars as Clemency, the sun shining on her young face, pulled gently at the smoothed handles. Moorhens darted under overhanging banks as she approached. She pulled the boat into the middle of the stream, feeling the stronger currents, and thought of them as friends, so familiar were they to her.
Looking downstream, first to the right, then to the left, she saw the waterside life returning. The moorhen resumed its pecking, blackbirds returned to long boughs to continue their courtship displays, and the surface of the stream regained its serenity, hiding the currents that Clemency knew.
A few pulls on the oars brought Mrs. Fairclough into view, sitting, daintily sipping tea at the gleaming white table that was always set for two. Clemency didn't know who the other place was set for. She thought perhaps it was prepared for somebody Mrs. Fairclough was expecting, but who never seemed to arrive.
Clemency was gone, and with her Mrs. Fairclough's only distraction from the lonely reaches stretching away in front of her. She was thinking about her husband, and her memories of him brought soft tears to her delicate blue eyes. Her loneliness crushed her. Dark fingers of melancholy probed her mind, and her grief left her weak and forlorn.
At this time of the year, Gerald would have been tending the seed beds, a hoe in his long, sensitive hands, or else he would be kneeling as if in prayer to the red earth of the garden he loved.
She would call his name softly, and he would come to her, and sit with her, his face reflecting her happiness. Looking up from their tea, smiling, they would see the scull slowly passing, and Clemency, her father's eye patch over her right eye, sailing the Spanish Main. She would pass, and leave them to think of their own dear daughter, and to drink their tea, and look into empty cups rather than at each other.
Mrs. Fairclough wept a single tear that ran down her cheek to the corner of her mouth. She quickly sipped some tea from the flowered china, sweetness dissolved the taste of sorrow, and left in its place an emptiness that, with the sound of the stream lapping at the green bank, made her feel cold and alone. She returned to the house, pale and wan, chilled by the breeze, saddened by the water, not wishing to see Clemency return.
Inside the house she felt her husband's presence again. His pipe lay on the bureau, his slippers beneath it, a volume of poetry lay open on the chair where he used to sit. The flowers that he loved to look at, stood in a vase, fresh and green. The gramaphone, if switched on, would have played the overture to his favourite opera. The man himself was missing. Mrs. Fairclough sat in the failing light and waited. He did not appear, and she sighed gently and slipped quietly into a sleep from which she did not awake.
I wrote this after reading a poem by our Poet Laureate.
Robert L. Fielding