© By Ciaran Carson
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 diminuendo
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 ivory
Nor milk. Chalk is better and there’s a hint of pearl, translucent
Lurking just behind opaque. I broke open the husk so many times
And always found it empty the pith was a wordless bubble.
Though there’s nothing in the thing itself, bits of it come back unbidden,
Playing in the archaic dust till the white blip became visible.
Just as, the other day, I felt the tacky pimples of a ping- pong bat
When the bank-clerk counted my money with her rubber thimble, and knew
The black was bleeding into red. Her face was snow and roses just behind
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 auction.
There was this Thirties scuffed leather sofa I wanted to make a bid for.
Gestures, prices: soundlessly collateral in the murmuring room.
I won’t say what I paid for it: anything’s too much when you have nothing.
But in the dark recesses underneath the cushions I found myself kneeling
As decades of the Rosary dragged by, the slack of years ago hauled up
Bead by bead and with them, all the haberdashery of loss - cuff buttons,
Broken ball-point pens and fluff, old pennies, pins and needles, and yes,
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.
Has put up two trestles. Handshakes all round, nods and whispers.
Roses are brought in, and suddenly, white confetti seethes against the window.
Ciaran Carson, Snow, 1989, complete text, Belfast Confetti, 1989, The Gallery Press.
Ciaran Carson’s snow takes an image of a ping-pong ball and draws remarkable nostalgic associations out of it.