A strip of linen with my name,
sewn into a shirt by my mother
who was no seamstress.
Taking care but not enough
to stop her thinking
why she had to do this –
so when I was gone
and someone who was not her
washed my shirt I’d find it
ironed and folded on the bed.
To be without a shirt on my back,
my mother would not have wanted that,
who would clothe and feed me first,
before herself, instead of her.
Tight stitches along the edge,
a finger down the seam,
to check it’s smooth, won’t catch,
and I‘d not know her touch was there
as I walked about in the world,
knowing my name if asked
when she could not speak for me.
After sewing, packing,
checking lists, she picks up my coat
as I chase outside.
I’ve never thought of this before,
how as she waited for the day I left
she gave me everything she could
except her tears.
Some early morning
when you wake,
a ladder of light
up the wall
where the shutter
is still closed.
maybe a dog far off,
and quiet waves.
What you hear
is the sun,
holding its breath.
Written in Water
He said he’d open me up,
pull everything out
and have a look.
After that I came to you,
adolescent in a flowered dress.
Your father offered whiskey, cigarettes.
Your sister said she liked
my languid convalescent.
Standing by the Usk
we read the river’s lesson,
salmon seen then gone
in the clear concealing stream
that hurried to escape
the valley’s entanglement,
and touched no longer
than a minute.
Before I left I combed lice
from my hair, a hospital memento,
with the centipede scar
which I still bear.
You called to say it’s her turn now.
Like a cut it was so quick
she had no time to be afraid.
I’ve kept that detail to myself.
One Way Ticket
where the sea reaches and plays
then with a rush
catches you out.
Look up along the beach –
a few wanderers, everyone else
asleep, or going to work,
the mountain lying on its side
awake with light.
Check the time, twenty minutes out,
twenty minutes back to where you wait
untroubled by the clock, knowing
we will always be on time.
like a gold coin that cannot rust
in the sand between my feet,
that we will leave and
like so many places, everywhere,
and pick the coin up though
it will burn an empty circle
through my hand.
You thanked me for leaving the window open
so you could sleep in the waves’ unceasing whisper,
knowing the sun wakes me early before I’m done
with the dark.
A magpie crackles on your roof
telling an old story and old true truth.
Your neighbours sit on chairs
for sale outside your door,
peer down the cellar, under beds.
The hall is piled with crocks,
your lease ran out, you are buried,
the sun is shining, no one’s sad.
A bunch of spoons in an elastic band,
a box of china sold unseen.
Your kids have put a price
on every sideboard, frame, cup, knife.
A pocketful of cash for fifty years
in hardware shops, general stores,
Saturday afternoons on Wandsworth road.
Each bargain shoving last week’s snip
to the back of the shelf.