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They exist in rudimentary gardens,

flourishing a cane or twirling a parasol,

all nipped-in waists, doffed hats

and little pointed shoes.

Regency bucks and belles,

they appear out of nowhere, for no reason,

leaning by a bridge or balustrade,

admiring a willow tree.

Given over to reflection,

they do nothing for a season, in pairs,

while a butterfly waits in mid-air.

That impossible basket of flowers

says all there is to say about love

in their shiny black world.

After dark, their silver paper costumes

shimmer in the light from the street.

Their flickering afterimages

stiff-leg-it round the room

in time to some tinselly tune from long ago.

For a moment, they seem to dance together.

Suddenly bashful, they hide

behind fans or dance programmes,

or turn their heads to one side.

They pass their days like this,

bowing and scraping to one another

on either side of a mantelpiece or door,

till one of them goes missing,

or crashes to the floor.