This poem was inspired by Yehuda Amichai’s ‘A Room by the Sea’, translated by Dom Moraes. I came back to this poem constantly, building up a relationship with it over many days. I used the technique of erasure to pare it down to four or five keywords. As I did this, I kept seeing Scarlett O’Hara, played by the vibrant Vivien Leigh in Gone With The Wind, returning to her home, Tara, after the devastation of the American Civil War. As a film studies lecturer I tend to interpret and decode the world through film and I was consumed with thoughts of how a room evolves without a protagonist, lives on despite human absence and how, when it is revisited, it seems at once familiar and unfamiliar, the thread both broken and unbroken. In a way, this was how the process of interacting with Amichai’s poem felt too. As I built up my own version of it, it became both more and less familiar and my memory of the original blurred. I spent some time tinkering with another Amichai poem, ‘Summer or Its Ending’, but fell so deeply in love with it, I couldn’t find space for my own interpretation. However, one word, ‘shroud’, from Dennis Silk’s translation, followed me into ‘Interlude in a Locked Room’.
The room’s restraint, silent
as an empty glass, is the answer
to a forgotten question.
A flag unwinds in the clattering wind,
long as a shroud, wide as a veil.
Fields smoulder in the distance,
sometimes there is a truncated cry.
The air in the room is squat and old,
too ugly to breathe.
The dust tastes bitter, like ancient lemons,
reshaping itself as if a cat had just left
a patch of sunlight.
A row of old shoes, full
of sweat and air; a windowsill smeared
with fingerprints, witness to nothing
that can easily be recalled.