A white dot flicked back and forth across the bay window: not
A table-tennis ball, but ‘ping-pong’, since this is happening in
another era,
The extended leaves of the dining table – scratched mahogany
veneer –
Suggesting many such encounters, or time passing: the celluloid
As it bounces off into a corner and ticks to an incorrigible stop.
I pick it up days later, trying to get that pallor right: it’s neither
Nor milk. Chalk is better; and there’s a hint of pearl, translucent
Lurking just behind opaque. I broke open the husk so many
And always found it empty; the pith was a wordless bubble.

Though there’s nothing in the thing itself, bits of it come back
Playing in the archaic dusk till the white blip became invisible.
Just as, the other day, I felt the tacky pimples of a ping-pong bat
When the bank-clerk counted out my money with her rubber
thimble, and knew
The black was bleeding into red. Her face was snow and roses just
The bullet-proof glass: I couldn’t touch her if I tried. I crumpled up
the chit –
No use in keeping what you haven’t got – and took a stroll to Ross’s
There was this Thirties scuffed leather sofa I wanted to make a bid
Gestures, prices: soundlessly collateral in the murmuring room.

I won’t say what I paid for it: anything’s too much when you have
But in the dark recesses underneath the cushions I found myself
As decades of the Rosary dragged by, the slack of years ago hauled
Bead by bead; and with them, all the haberdashery of loss – cuff
Broken ball-point pens and fluff, old pennies, pins and needles, and
A ping-pong ball. I cupped it in my hands like a crystal, seeing not
The future, but a shadowed parlour just before the blinds are
drawn. Someone
Has put up two trestles. Handshakes all round, nods and whispers.
Roses are brought in, and suddenly, white confetti seethes against
the window.

from Belfast Confetti (Gallery/Wake Forest University Press, 1989), © Ciaran Carson 1989, used by permission of the author and publishers

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