DEATH OF A CHILD
Open the window wide
he will not fly back,
his shoes stand by the door still
now five months have past,
and I remember him two years old
distracted by a leaf at the foot of a slide.
And if you lived in Greece
they might dress you up in purple
but here you are no one at all,
no longer discussing silver sand
with those Cambridge mothers.
Take down the mobile.
Find the men: the car
in the middle of the road again,
the hunt for lost fragments, policemen,
all fathers, retrieving a past.
Yet Matthew is everywhere,
a speck on the sand,
arched young back,
sea in his sights.
pictures and words and things….
hidden in books,
the primitive crayon drawing
behind magnets on fridges,
tiny growths hidden beneath the wallpaper —
for Mummy love Matthew for
I know they are all concerned about me
but why waste a plaster if my leg is bleeding?
Everything is fine. This lovely daughter
will be good and wear her little white socks.
This loving family always sits up nicely.
We discuss together at meals. We have fun.
We share our problems and are polite
because…because…we love each other.
The crumbs in the toaster prove that I have eaten
but someone keeps putting someone else’s clothes
in my wardrobe. My smile is a slice of watermelon.
I will be good. Good. Though all my fingertips are freezing.
What is happening to my blood? They said
one day your body will start to digest itself.
No need to turn my mirrors to the wall
for soon I will reflect nothing.
I love everyone. Watch me.
Watch in the marketplace
as they prepare to stone me.
See me slip between the cracks
in the pavement. Each night my mother
goes to see a friend: his face a ghastly shadow
against the glass. See how my body swells,
climbs above the trees. Grotesque skyscraper.
They tell me anything but this is what I know:
from below I am the Himalayas from above
the Potomac winding to infinity.
This black hole will never touch bottom:
Cloud in a tent–whaleback against the sky
I don’t need the crumbs from the table,
I can grow from fresh air. I pluck at the grass:
He loves me not not not.
EARLY LOVE LATER PRESUMED DROWNED
Leeds. Frost and autumn leaves in the streets.
Grime beneath the fingernails,
in that circular library where
infatuation shared a shelf with science,
formulae and memorising.
We had never been this far north before.
(Remember those pretty sweets to keep us safe,
three older men in a bachelor flat?)
There in peaked cap, a poser…
perhaps…the only one to die for.
Bookends played: ‘A time of innocence
a time of confidences…’ Careless letters
let slip ‘Dear Ken…love Kay,’ me
in his room, a little drunk (he tugs
at my skirt), I catch in the mirror
my father’s dulled eyelids…these
were pearls that were his eyes,…while the
Paternoster goes round and round,
all now transformed to something rich
and strange – a life forever frozen.
Belinda Cooke’s translations include Kulager by Ilias Jansugurov (Kazakh N.T. A., 2018); Forms of Exile: Poems of Marina Tsvetaeva (The High Window Press, 2019); (et al) Contemporary Kazakh Poetry (C.U.P, 2019). Her own poetry includes Stem (the High Window Press, 2019) and her Days of the Shorthanded Shovelists forthcoming (Salmon Poetry).