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Crossing the Frontier

Crossing the Frontier - Alec Derwent Hope

 Crossing the frontier they were stopped in time, 
Told, quite politely, they would have to wait: 
Passports in order, nothing to declare 
And surely holding hands was not a crime 
Until they saw how, ranged across the gate, 
All their most formidable friends were there. 

Wearing his conscience like a crucifix, 
Her father, rampant, nursed the Family Shame; 
And, armed wlth their old-fashioned dinner-gong, 
His aunt, who even when they both were six, 
Had just to glance towards a childish game 
To make them feel that they were doing wrong. 

And both their mothers, simply weeping floods, 
Her head-mistress, his boss, the parish priest, 
And the bank manager who cashed their cheques; 
The man who sold him his first rubber-goods; 
Dog Fido, from whose love-life, shameless beast, 
She first observed the basic facts of sex. 

They looked as though they had stood there for hours; 
For years - perhaps for ever. In the trees 
Two furtive birds stopped courting and flew off; 
While in the grass beside the road the flowers 
Kept up their guilty traffic with the bees. 
Nobody stirred. Nobody risked a cough. 

Nobody spoke. The minutes ticked away; 
The dog scratched idly. Then, as parson bent 
And whispered to a guard who hurried in, 
The customs-house loudspeakers with a bray 
Of raucous and triumphant argument 
Broke out the wedding march from Lohengrin. 

He switched the engine off: "We must turn back." 
She heard his voice break, though he had to shout 
Against a din that made their senses reel, 
And felt his hand, so tense in hers, go slack. 
But suddenly she laughed and said: "Get out! 
Change seatsl Be quickl" and slid behind the wheel. 

And drove the car straight at them with a harsh, 
Dry crunch that showered both with scraps and chips, 
Drove through them; barriers rising let them pass 
Drove through and on and on, with Dad's moustache 
Beside her twitching still round waxen lips 
And Mother's tears still streaming down the glass.