Nightly, he tosses in the lapped covers,
hears her voice in the in-between of sleep.
He searches her face with his fingers,
touches her bloated skin: every tic
tastes of whiskey, syllables slide
and distort on her tongue.
By day, he sees her cradled in speckled light.
She is strange and abstract.
He wanders through her labyrinth,
searching for his lost self inside her.
He buries her, not knowing she will stay
like a seed in his shadow, her salt tide pulling
beneath his feet, her beached breath
blistering his throat – he carries her inside him
like a hollow, her mouth opens
in his as he speaks.
He had loved what she was not. And when she left,
he loved what went: he is her earth chrysalis,
her flaxen mesh, she lies wrapped into his body,
folded and pressed like cold white sheets.
Her hands are his hands, the intricate network of bones,
she is stitched into his pockets, tight as a fist.
This is their triangle: him and her,
and the savage grey wolf slingeing at the door
I will lead you by the hand to the hushed hum
of the gentle oak, an evening breeze sounding
shivers into leaves, quiet turbulence in the air
and the gravity of sound settling on mossed stone.
I hear its tongue-lick in ivy the way a bat hears
the silhouette of trees, or a whale the shape of its home,
touching the skin like sound braille, tiny neck hairs
startled to its presence; earth music in the trees
and in the stony wind, atoms of light trembling in tiny
dust particles where body-bones separate, flesh disappears.
Between heart-pulse and light’s shadow-touch,
I will lead you to the quiet abundance of silence,
the wide emptying of voiceless things; earth’s pulse,
seamless and somewhere beyond absence.
whisperings in the heart.
The tidal impulse to breathe him in,
take him into my skin: sweat breaking,
loosening like a river released
to the edge of the world,
water into water.
And after then, to hold
the fading scent of him,
as it is, right there.
Our footsteps unsettle dust, disturb
a woodloused threshold. Damp walls
curdle, the mirror leaks absence⎯
a house making strange, lingering
ghosts released from wilted
armchairs, from skeletal roof ribs
and the gaunt corners of every room.
They slip through my fingers,
tumble through ransacked spaces
into the empty air of the long lost.
And through the window an uncanny
sea-light cradles the islands, something
stirs in the whispering drapes,
my goose fleshed skull peeled back and pulled
into this place of your hallowed kin,
of wordless speech and your mother-tongue
reaching to you from somewhere
beyond the aching silences, a voice
resonating outside your skin, stroking
my lips, my mouth, my tongue, its unearthly
presence a temporal crossover touch.
His mottled hands shine like bruised thistle heads:
the blue-veined lines I had traced as a child are soft
and raised over thinning bone. Oak pleated skin
is knotted with age, there’s an earthy tone
to the marrow of his gaze. Black bog seeps between
my toes, swallows dip in a cool damp mist.
And still, the air trembles to his touch, he is elemental,
as though he has fallen out of the world, slipped
through the river’s silvery skin; chameleon
water mingles with flesh, old minutes
climb through the charged air. I cast
my net on dead shadows and catch
in the brittle light, his hidden wounds exposed,
all of his eloquent sadness unveiled. I wonder
if I absorb in that moment all that he is.
When she first met his hands
they were unfamiliar, they stirred
the light around her, passed over
and through her. They didn’t know
her lips, nor her mouth, not the curl
of her hair, nor the curve of her skin.
Her body-bones were not soothed
by his hands, nor were her scarred
ribs lulled, the frame of her outer
edges lay lost in other spaces.
Now his hands are full of thought,
they are hidden paths and wandering
life-lines, they are earth and rain and meadows,
they pulse with the seasons’ rhythm,
rest like oceans between the night sky
and the moon. His open palms bring words
in their slipstream, they hum on gut-strings,
turn air into sound, sometimes they are soft
wind-whispers speaking in tongues of touch:
his fingertips climb into her roots, stay
in her as she sleeps⎯and when his hands
reach for hers, they are tender as shadows,
they reach, and reach beyond her,
far into answers she has not yet lived.
Song of My People
My people are formed from this soil, this air¹.
Born of leaves and woodlands and streams,
of birds and acres and seed.
They are misted bogs in late summer heat,
the sweet burnt turf of bitter days,
the sweat of rain on meadows of hay.
My people are river-ripples, fishing nets cast
beneath dark mottled skin. They are rocks
and pebbles and sand, shape-shifting through grief.
Their sound is the sea’s constant voice,
its wild tongue unloosed in the air, a wind-cradle
wrapping its wide arms around me.
My people are the fine threads of history circling
through veins, the hidden mind-pleats that leap
into being, my buried dialect emerging.
They are the dust that settles on soil, light
lifting off the water. They are my roots
and my rootlessness.
I carry you my people,
and you carry me.
I echo forever our song.
¹ ‘My tongue, every atom of my blood, form’d from this soil,
Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and
their parents the same…’
Walt Whitman, Song of Myself
I have waited through the long winter grey
for the slow clean curve of spring,
the sun a warm breath on my neck,
its lips glossed with a damp breeze.
Far below, the murmurings of wind and water
weave a familiar braid of intimacy.
The whole of the blue sky is stretched wide,
light falls on us, a lovers’ blanket spread on sand.
This moment is already time’s fugitive;
sweet rain pooled in a dockweed’s leafy
pocket, the soft unwrapping of downy buds,
moss gathered in a hollowed bowl of earth;
like a container that holds and pours,
we are filled and emptied.
To be lifted then into the loose
hem of the breeze, cast out
over the spooling cliff, to drop
like a bird, free-fall into the wind.