My kitchen-tray is piled with tired silver:
A creamer, once gifted for a christening,
Dainty enough but dull from long neglect;
Several napkin-rings, scored with the initials
Of cousins who now seldom meet;
Coasters, still ringed with old, dribbled wine;
Sets of branching candlesticks, deformed with cold wax;
And a conglomeration of so much cutlery,
Blades, bowls and tines all spotted and stained.

What perverse custom weights our celebrations with silver?
What appeal can a tarnishing metal
Have over thrice-tempered steel?
Silver blackens in the very air we breathe.
Steel’s dull, stainless sheen is surely
Bright enough for today’s entertaining.

Outside, the shrouded sun hangs low,
Its light a mere plating
On the fast-fading winter’s day.
An easterly wind drives sleeting rain
To pen me in
With nothing to lure me from this chore,
This war on soiled silver.

Boredom looms
Until the simple rhythm of the task
Slowly redeems my mood.
Into the restorative liquid, my finger,
Bound in rag, dips,
Rubs, dips again.
Dips, rubs, dips, rubs,
Loosens the grime,
Shifts dullness.

Stain will settle in dark places,
The over-wrought crevices.
Persistent polishing
Will never remove it all.
But somehow this black texturing
Now complements, accentuates
The cleaned gleaming.

Silver has its own effulgence.
More than that:
It up-gathers colour,
Nurses it in each spoon’s basin,
Spangles the candle-stick’s rim and stem.
Burnished silver un-rainbows the spectrum:
Full, white, red-to-violet light
In the curve and swell
Of every cherished piece.

A table is set, the silver laid.
It spreads the candles’ haloing glow.

Companionship is graced.

January 2018

Poems for Artemis