Ruth Gilchrist -Poems

THE TELLING

I could take the fly you cast
take it here, in the softness if my mouth
let the hook pierce just behind the lip.
Down the line you’d feel my shudder
and your heart would quicken as we start
this game
the to and fro
the testing.

We could meet somewhere between deep pools and
river bank, we could dance water into air, conjure a rainbow
affront the silence, tear the mist, shed scales and sweat, play out this game.

But to what end
this to and fro
this you and I?
To tales we could tell of how one played the other
of the bright sun and the orchestra.

And no one would know
the lies
and the river would not
remember
only you and I would have this game
and its end
just you and I
this game.

DROWNING

Three knots;
a storm of your own making
your vessel; a coffin ship.

Hold on to your Intemperstate Securitas,
it may serve you long enough to feel the final
waves kiss as you slide through the last solstrale*

in fear,
or acceptance
drown.

To be rebirthed like some new
demersal fish, swaddled in a cradle of
threads that will outlast your bones

tucked in with an old blue bed warmer,
suckling on a discoloured, not yet degraded teat.

Play amongst the nymphs and fishes
they will thread a charm of coloured beads
and knit you a hat from fishing twine,

there are plastic cherries to weave in mermaid’s hair,
sequins brighter than fish scales
and just in case some sanitary wear.

You packed this Kist of comforts;
a Perspex window pane, a fancy ceramic light pull,
vestiges of a rusted bar stool

a handy receptacle, a barbed hook to catch ?
an empty pen to write a final message,
a shiny badge worn to negotiate safe passage

oh and a tarnished spoon
with which to eat your fill of all this.

You have garnered a princely
death hoard, a fitting legacy of your command
but look, around you

in this the first of wombs
it is not just you
that is drowning.

*Norwegian word meaning sunbeam.

*********

She is betony, borage, bracken and briar.
She is silvered curls of cotton grass,
wefts of white camomile.
Her hooves split the comfrey
her fleece knit with cleavers,
but her eyes sing out crab apple and
her nose is armed against the nettle.
Her tongue sees through the hawthorn.

She is a maternal memory grown on
paths well-trod, grass worn close.
A map of minted streams and minerals.
She naps beneath the yellow gorse
and dines upon the purple heather,

SHE IS HERDWICK

LEADING LADY

A winner’s ticket, a gimmer with a good mouth,
a good all rounding plapple of the auctioneer’s gavel,
new blood for a secure stock future,
a quick drier, a wall runner, heafed to the fell.

A woolly maggot, dressed with lug marks
called by smit marks, a number on a Defra inventory.
A curator of curves, a cause in some communities,
a thread between generations on an upland farm.

The talk of the Shepherds Meet and Lakeland Shears,
up Cartmel, down Appleby, across from Skelton to Penrith.
Penned in the Gazette, The Herald, or the Cockermouth Post.

Always and without doubt the leading lady in the shepherds’ annual dance.

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