- The Snow Hulk
- Rain on the Sea
- Photograph of Lowry at Home
- Earth Shakes out a Brown Hawk Owl
- Uncertain Times
- Driving Over the Snake Pass Under a Shed with a Goldfish on my Lap
I’m in the front, Mum sits behind with both
my sleeping sisters, flaked from Auld Lang Syne.
Snow scraps hurl like curls of peel, fling themselves
into the windscreen. I can’t believe how
secret the cautious, clotted streets appear.
The year is closing. The world’s transforming.
Our garden, dressed like a stage set, awaits.
The idea takes. We’re piling, shovelling,
we are like frenzied Frankensteins: intent.
But this snow man is only half monster,
arms bent in rage and towering so I
can’t reach to hang his hat. We sometimes thought
of you like that. You lift me up to press
his coal black eyes. I prayed he wouldn’t melt.
She was skilful at sitting when she got the chance
lingering in the parked car under pounding rain
just for the pleasure of the sound, the being dry.
We would hold our breath so silently at those times.
Now when I have a stolen minute to sit still
to gaze at nothing as rainfall sweeps up the tide
in its arms and they roll up the beach together,
I think to any witness who had the power
to be both there and then and now, at once,
I would resemble the same woman paused in her thoughts.
Who knows what hers were? I played oblivious.
The rain falls on the sea of the years. The tide crawls
across one thousand seaside miles of time
and I sit looking like her unseen.
Bunches pink in the mittened fists
of boys standing angular in the road.
The toe of a boot touches a pebble,
takes its shy kiss, no sound, eyes
to the ground on the camera’s click.
Granite chips line the path to town,
birthday crumb white.
Mothers have told them to keep
collars down. They didn’t need telling,
they have grown. Going out today
on their own. Still,
they are far from proposals,
golden rings, churches,
blessings and other things.
Back through the pines to beginnings,
back through the woods, back home
the mothers sit and wish
while in the boys’ hands the crocuses
come alive like torches.
The starling nests in a cup of feathers.
The nouns come out like eggs.
Roosting in the holy synonyms of towns
colonising common spaces,
the bird becomes grammar.
In the syntax of grass and pasture
there is a legend spooling wordlessly.
Suddenly in the air a flock of clauses
lifts and drops like logic, silent over children calling,
silent over ears of corn silking by the road,
over the wood pigeon’s soft choke
in the consonants of trees, over the bee
devouring the vowel of a flower.
An autumn evening dives.
The starlings write
a novel on the eggshell of the sky.
Not an apple in the serpent’s garden
but a love heart for the lost.
The meat of the sweet divided world.
The dense taste of grit and moss
in the mouth. Black hole –
the negative to all that we are worth.
Dense as a hunted heart, large in the palm
of a hand. You are a blood blister of the earth.
Here the grass is scorched, elsewhere a flood
where you’re bowled forth like a dove from the ark.
Your curvature of hope
heralds a new start.
Dark planet you were startled
as you were lifted from the soil,
squatting under your brittle leaf nest,
with a dusty pallor spoiling
your blush. At home with worms
and moles, humbly wrapped in shreds of leather
where rabbits burrow and muster underfoot.
Outsider to the weather.
Boiled and rolled from pan to bowl,
weighty as a bloodied fist. Slippery as wine
and glassy as a toffee apple,
on the knife that slices your rubies,
and cubes the darker thoughts of veins,
cuts passages through caves
where inked fingers stain
treaties into life. Blasted ember
from the furnace of despair. Hot
void absorbing bad in the world, dented
cannonball of all we are, ballast and shot.
At the edge of the open door
brass-hooked trilbies crown the coats
emptied of the man. Further back,
concealed by easels, he’s figuring
from his chair, paintbrush raised
as in farewell
retiring in a crumpled
three-piece suit. Gutted frames
prepared like kindling
wait for some fire. On the mantel piece
the carriage clock ticks
this time forever.
Panic in the aisles. Unmasked together in a queue
we breathe discretely in opposite directions
no eye contact, ashamed of this synchronised thinking.
Ridiculous whims in the baskets, beans for protein
chocolate for morale. The thought of weeks
without fruit pinpoints an island of claustrophobia
inside, a notion of scurvy voyages east
or west on some wooden clipper. If only they’d had
the Piña des Indes back then. The tin sits
plucked from the shelf, adopted pet in the mesh
stack of yellow halos on the label. We are foreign
to each other. They grow just metres away
in fields, attract hummingbirds and bats. Fierce thistles
becoming flesh, only pickable with thick gloves
then stacked on the back of pick-up trucks
but these would ferment too soon with a smell
brown as vinegar. I’m after something more robust,
some buoyancy aid we can cling to, a sun’s corona, life ring.
Midday was heavy like a solid place
heat flashing catfish fables
up from the lake and in the slow rhythm
of the hours the world hiccupped.
A new bird flew out of the rift,
settled in the fork of a tree, shocked
to wash up in the raucous truth of day.
Yellow-scaled talons hooked the fulcrum
of the branch, fine like the ends of thorns.
Its beak kept tucked until needed
to rip the skin off some beast.
Seven vague hearts pinned its chest
and wings folded neat as linen
round the grey chequered vest.
The tail lay trimmed smooth as a sail
waiting for the right wind.
Locked on the lens of their own disbelief
two headlight eyes switched to full beam
shone on a shaken earth,
like parallel Saturns yellow as an egg.
In the shift some wondered about how we live
unable to feel the grain of nature,
owls out of our time, waiting
for the muted senses to waken.
In my son’s bedroom
piled clothes rack hangs silently
folded dark moth wings
Blurry edged mirror
a pond frozen in stasis
Ridge of white mountains
piled duvet of new terrain
Vagrant backpack hunched
near the door in the corner
dumped six weeks before
Empty food bowl holds
fork perched on the precipice
searching for its tune
Dry plant leans its leaves
to glass for the bigger light
Outside life beckons
Curtains like water
closed to the world, knowing no
other way to fall.
He toes the wire which sways like a hammock
outstretches his knotted arms of rope.
Ears ringed gold as a sailor of air.
His back and chest inked by compass,
star. Fixing his eye low on the horizon
where he’ll land in time with our ovation
he climbs the unicycle, inches backwards
slowly unwalking the plank.
We buoy him up with our applause
become his crew, his wave and tide,
life vest of his triumph. And he ours.
Four clubs fly like seagulls
mobbing a fish or words trying to land
on a line. Each catch sharpens our awe.
Then he’s passed a fifth on fire!
We stow the clapping, trade in calm.
For this moment we anchor him
with our belief as the solo drumbeats start.
He catches in time, leaps to land
and signs a charter of hope on our hearts.
These were the final items to repatriate
taken over the hills to my first home
-the cats had gone ahead two weeks before.
Young enough to still depend on parents
we knew the baggage that we did not take
could be left at their door and kept for us.
Tied to the roof rack like a tortoise shell
the shed, unconstructed, was just boards of wood.
I peered skyward as you drove, for any shift
in light foreshadowing some avalanche
of splinters. We kept the radio off,
tuned in to creaking and the steady slosh
of fish water that I was powerless to stop.
We had no idea how our life would be
rebuilt a thousand miles away or why fish,
when moved into some larger water, grow.