A Trunk of Old Letters
In the attic lay the black leather trunk, like a casket
For the letters that lay forgotten.
And opening it, I heard a crowd of mingled voices,
Young and old – ladies and gentlemen, children and grandmothers
All talking at once in voices of joy, sorrow and hope.
All reading aloud their long ago written words,
Alive in a world when the ink was still wet,
When the seal was not yet dry,
When the quill was just set down upon the desk.
They belonged to that world, they leapt over the puddles of candle wax
Upon the pages – chattered on about the births of children,
The advent of the new century, the last Christmas and the new carriage.
They were owned by the world of letters.
I did fly like a gray dove over the immortal roofs of Rome,
As my imagination leapt from chapels to churches,
Across streets and squares to roost upon an ancient pillar –
The Roman sunlight touched me in the red mist of morning,
And I became instantly old –
Looking at the city then, I turned to stone.
Into a statue to stand forever with my eyes fixed on this place.
I shall leap then across Rome from pillar to pillar,
From dome to dome.
Night filled the ancient sites then,
And the shadows of your centurions
Marched victorious under your arches in the moonlight,
And the Forum’s scattered pillars
Lay like the abandoned bones of its Caesars.
Elizabeth Jane Timms is a royal historian, freelance writer, research professional and poet, based in Oxford. She is a member of the Oxford Writers’ Circle and the University of Oxford Poetry Society. She writes for journals, magazines, newsletters and the web. She divides her time between Oxford and London.