for Pascale Petit
Harold Raby Collection, Manchester City Art Gallery
Unlike eggs, their treasure,
is not within. These are inside out.
Look at this frog, self-satisfied, its jewels
gleaming in the spotlight;
this speckled hare, ears back
couched upon a mound of green;
head of Neptune, empty of brains
as though someone had sliced his skull
at the temple, but being immortal,
he’d survived to wear this hat
of painted shells, sea serpents and fish,
whatever the painter’s wild dreams brought.
Then there’s the mottos:
Though absent not forgotten;
I prize the gift because I love the giver.
Raby, bank manager, came home each night
from a colourless day, to these gaudy dainties
he’d braved bombs to buy,
bonbonnières and patch boxes,
to bring him levity and joy.