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'Blue-Tack Stains'

Writing: Jess Cowie

Illustration: Isi Williams

Yesterday a photo fell

From the blue-tacked, bric-a-brac

Collage I’d stuck beside my bed

Back in September,

And looking at the square

Of wall it left behind

I couldn’t think which

Part of me was missing.

It’s hardly surprising:

There wasn’t any order

To the favourite places, faces

Laughing out across the mesh of

Birthdays and silly hats

I’d hastily assembled

To cover the foreignness

Of a new room

But I thought that I’d miss

The still-life stepping stones

That marked the places

I had been.

When I retrieved it

There was a strange relief

In the familiar shapes

Of that winter walk

On the crags, four figures

Balancing like cranes

Against the city’s

Orange lights below.

I can’t remember

Our wind-snatched conversations:

Only our whipped hair

And flying scarves

And four crescent grins

Were caught and saved

From being forgotten

When we turned

And left the frame.

And if the memory

Wasn’t pressed safely

Onto a piece of photo paper

It would be gone,

Caught up like our lost voices

In the November wind,

To become part of the montage

Of unmarked, unmissed days.

But I wasn’t prepared

For the emptiness the fallen shot

Would leave behind,

For the way the blank space

Would change the bigger picture,

Reshape the frame and

Make the pinned-up memories

Seem less permanent.

And I realised that

In fourteen days

I’ll peel the others

From their unplanned web

And leave the wall as white

And waiting as it was

When I arrived and stuck

My life around me.

There’s a sadness in leaving –

In the knowledge

That things are left behind,

And in the realisation

That some of what’s left

Is left forever, slipping

From the wall of what’s

Remembered, to the wind.

But there’s something

Strangely beautiful

In the thought that those

Stretched-out silhouettes,

Four figures frozen against

A smog-softened sky

Might someday fade from the

Photo paper,

And exist only

In the echoes

Of forgotten laughter

And the blue-tack stains

On these walls.

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