Now she’s ninety I walk through the local park
where, too cold, the usual peacocks do not screech
and neighbouring lights come on before it’s dark.
Dare I affirm to her, so agèd and so frail,
that from one pale dot of peacock’s sperm
spring forth all the colours of a peacock’s tail?
I do. But she like the sibyl says, ‘I would die’;
then complains. ‘This winter I’m half dead, son.’
And because it’s true I want to cry.
Yet must not (although only Nothing keeps)
for I inhabit a white coat not a black
even here – and am not qualified to weep.
So I speak of small approximate things,
of how I saw, in the park, four flamingoes
standing, one-legged on ice, heads beneath wings.
By Dannie Abse
from Welsh Retrospective
Interesting fact: Dannie Abse was born in Cardiff, Wales, to a Jewish family. He was the younger brother of politician and reformer Leo Abse and the eminent psychoanalyst, Wilfred Abse. Unusually for a middle-class Jewish boy, Dannie Abse attended St Illtyd’s College, a working-class Catholic school in Splott.