25 MAY 1985, Page 32

Cherry Blossom Black

Kneeling like some strange four-footed beast And cleaning my unfashionable shoes, By which I mean elastic-sided boots On an old newspaper's forgotten news, I dab the brush into the tin and try Not to get any blacking on my suit, Dark socks, white shirt cuffs, or the borrowed tie As matt black as the polish on the boot.

The formal neck- and footwear of male grief Serve as disguises for the funeral. The tin and tin-lid, paper and still life Are both a memory and memorial: The sounds of shoeshine and the polish smell, The putter-onner and the taker-off.

Duncan Forbes