Time hangs heavy,

what better time than now.

For twenty years it’s been undisturbed,

hidden, in its lair beneath the stairs

and before that, another house, another lair.

I undid the case, its secrets divulged.

A hotch potch of ancient diaries, 

address books, photos, postcards,

telegrams, identity and medical cards, 

but mostly there were letters.

The now lost art of letter writing

was undertaken with such regularity,

sometimes urgency.

I was determined to be ruthless,

to only keep things of significance to me,

in order to reduce the hoard.

There were cards for every occasion,

written with such heartfelt messages.

I examined each one carefully

before putting it on one side.

But the letters took time, some hard to decipher;

written in pencil or coloured ink that assaults the eyes,

some on almost tissue like paper.

Letters my parents wrote to each other

when just married, cruelly separated by war.

The hours passed, 

reading and sorting, 

reading and sorting.

In a brown envelope, carefully preserved 

for eighty years and more, a cache of love letters,

intense, beautifully written and impossible to discard.

Yet I don’t know the sender.

At last the case was empty,

it’s contents ordered into separate piles.

I picked up a wallet, two photos,

my parents, staring out at me

not smiling, but looking straight ahead,

a requirement for travel concessions.

It was only then I broke down.  

Fragments of their lives tidied away into box files.

Vivien Foulkes-James 2020