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The Saturday Poem: That Was the Summer

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by Kit Wright

That was the summer as I recall,
the man next door and I began
to call each other Sir,
in a kind of roguish formality or
mock-combative collusion. Why,
I cannot say, but keep it up
we somehow did for some little time;
for as long, you might almost say, as it took.
"Are you all right, sir?" "Quite all right, sir.
You all right, sir?" "Sir, I'm well."
Nor did we fail to operate
attendant quasi-theatrical business:
the stiff half-turn; the ritual bow;
the planted stare of profound regard,
as we met on our doorsteps, housekeys poised
or bellowed across the howling High Road
"ARE YOU ALL RIGHT, SIR?" "QUITE ALL RIGHT, SIR!"
as though in loyal defence of a principle
both were prepared to die for, soon.
But the ending seemed as inexplicable
as the beginning: the disappearance,
ambulance sirens, police, old pressmen
hogging the bar at the Horse and Artichoke,
cats gone skinny, the haunted dog.
And of course I know no more than anyone
else as I walk these streets at midnight,
hoping to coax from neon or starlight
a final reflexive Sir, I'm well.

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