Empty chocolate boxes, a pillowcase with an orange at the bottom,
Nuts and tinsel with its idiosyncratic rustle and brilliant sheen
And the reflection in it of paper-chains hand-made and stuck with
Flour-paste stretching from the light-bowl to every corner of the room.
Father Christmas himself was plastic and his vast stomach painted red
With a bulging sack behind his back and he was stuck in the middle
Of a very large cake.
The icing was royal and you could see the
Whites of many eggs in the glister of its surface and on the
Upright piano the music of Jingle Bells lay open.
With aching hands I wrote thank you notes for socks to sainted aunts
And played on Nutwood Common with Rupert until Tiger Lily’s father,
The Great Conjuror, waved his wand and brought me home to the last
Coal fire in Leeds, suddenly dying.
I got through a whole packet of sweet cigarettes with pink tips
Dipped in cochineal and a whole quarter of sherbet lemons at a sitting
And there was a full bottle of Portello to go at, the colour
Of violet ink and tasting of night air and threepenny bits
Which lasted until the last gas-lamp in Leeds went out.
I had collected enough cardboard milk-tops to make a set of
Matchstick spinners and with my box of Rainbow Chalks drew circles
On my top, red, white and Festival of Britain blue and made it spin
All the way to the last bin-yard in Leeds while they pulled it down.
I was a very small teddy-bear crouched on a huge and broken chair
Ready to be put out into the wide world and my mother was there
To see me off.
The light in her eyes was out, there was no fire
In her heart and the binyard where I played was empty space.