Poetry

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Circa 1972

I found an old photograph hidden

in a small book on birds…

Ornithology for Beginners…

a Kodak sheen,

a cardboard silhouette neighbourhood

against a summer solstice sky.

The view from my back bedroom window

circa 1972 –

when my dad wore flares

and loved his moustache,

and my mother revealed her clavicle beauty

on warm evenings.

And standing on my bedroom window sill

I shouted into the purple dusk;

to friends standing on window sills,

all shouting into the square of

neighbourhood gardens.

 

And such stillness

in the graduated purple sky,

purple, still summer air,

circa 1972

when I shouted into gardens.

 

And now this photograph

with its flat, matt white bordered

squaring of a life,

of many lives,

can allow such quantum leaps

into back bedrooms,

white painted window sills

and small windows open

as far as they would go

out onto the sound of

softly buzzing gnats

and those domesticated gardens

circa 1972.

Gulf

Clouded eyes hold no gaze

except an inner space of

stonehenge shrouds,

shapeshifting memories,

half remembered,

crumpled like secrets

in a waste bin.

 

A sealed world that

whispers falsehoods

of young love,

of fenced off gardens,

of a working life

and children who are

still young.

 

Fingers tap like pale

notes over the bed

clothes patterning out

a symphony in small

habitual  movements.

The mouth works,

a meshing of wordless

exhalations on heady  air.

 

The smell of sweet

flowers left too long.

 

The gulf between

ourselves.

Between his self

and his recollection.

Between a life

and the dust

that it leaves.

 

Tattoo

This tattoo of yours,

flexed in rich ink,

skin Sanskrit –

a parchment on pores.

 

This desire of mine,

to become yours,

mouth open,

soft as rose pink.

 

A moist dipped quill,

deciphering you,

Tracing this script,

using my tongue –

 

The brush of fine hairs,

inky salt blue,

now part of our love

and pulse of our song.

 

An Old Love

When we were new

we made love behind a wall

as hornets hovered like darts;

and my love burst

like a firework                                      behind the wall.

 

When we were older

we lived near the sea.

Watched fork lightening

from the arched window

on the landing; the oxalis

flowering a muted pink                     only once.

 

When we were old

we slept head to toe,

like twins in a single bed,

love’s inverted symmetry.

Foetus curled away from

you. Snores bottoming out                 like wishes lost in a well.

 

Now I am old I live

an imagined memory,

as real as the flaccid skin,

unwashed hair and

loose clothes that

shape my days.

And we walk together                         in an old love.

 

Fall

Our fall from love was swift:

a bird shot from the sky,

a small, blood spattered gift

that could no longer fly.

 

I turned it in my hand

– this bloody, feathered sack,

you couldn’t understand

and tried to throw it back.

 

Later we should have known,

when all around we found,

the hollow splintered bones

– love scattered on the ground.

  

Ode to Nanny Terrell

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the wide hipped gait

of my neighbourhood

Gran.  Not straight up,

but a glorious teetering.

Her walk grinding out

each step to our two up

two down, and the

washing up and ironing.

Her stick would stab

the air around her feet

as if to punish litter

or to march, off beat.

 

Those evenings when

she dozed, and woke

in pale summer’s light,

then seeing dusk as dawn,

retook her steps to the

59 bus line: twice in one

day! Then back up the road

again. Brogues with brown

ties leading the charge,

cries of the neighbourhood

brood shouting their goodbyes.

 

Stewed mince and dumplings

for Friday night’s tea;

wild cushions flying

at an ambushed settee;

rainy day dominoes with a

pile of pennies as the stake,

and bedtime stories that

made me lie awake,

and talk in hushed

whispers of tall tales

to my sister.

And Mum

found a Mother

who could be a Granny

like no other.

 

 

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Butterfly

Sun steeps the roof,

heat stills the flowers.

Small wings thrum

over sweet cut grass.

 

Eyelids sift peach light to

an internal sky where

your skinny arms carry

a bucket rimmed with snails.

 

Dark mottled whorls,

mounting each other.

Tentacles finger

the warm air.

 

Eyes open.

Sweat like rain on sedum.

A butterfly on the wall

flickers, wings of spun light.

 

It’s tapestry spreading wide,

shuts tight to flex again,

in languid applause

at the fading day.

 

Old Dog Done

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Ah, you old curmudgeonly dog, you say

your day is done, that life’s kicked the shit out

of you. Reduced to post-it notes, betrayed

by all you knew. Grey, shuttering sight, doubt

settling like fog, never to lift except

to glimpse a setting sun, old dog done you!

 

Yet…let’s bang our cutlery on the checked

tablecloth of our rough shod care-home. Screw

them, and sing ‘Why are we waiting?’ as luke

warm pools of mince stagnate on plates behind

the hatch. Go on now, you’ll get no rebuke

from me. And we can hold hands, unresigned

and tilt our withered cheeks in the day room,

filling the air with our dying perfume.

(modern sonnet – preemptive Volta)