When the last ashes of my marriage had blown away
I joined an archery club. I wasn’t ready
for the intimacy of dating scenes
like Asian cuisine or digital photography.
I liked the singular nature of target,
bow, drawstring, arrow. Six months in
I entered a competition. I loved taming my pulse
with stopped breath, standing side-on, balanced
between repose and equipoise,
dispatching pointed lengths of light.
I won a trophy and was invited to dinner.
I laughed with my body, not just my face.
Dinner led to breakfast by a lake. I liked him.
A friend said, cruelly,
that he was target practice.
At the range he asked me to join him
on a hunting trip. I declined. Disappointment
was a dark blue glaze that passed over him.
When he persisted, I left the club.
When he phoned I didn’t answer.
When he knocked on my door, I froze.
The day he approached me in the car park
I saw him through the viewfinder of my stare,
my focus winged, withdrawn
and then, under pressure, released.
When I reached him there were shadows
like dried blood on his shirt. He said something
the wind could not translate. When I opened
the car door he flinched visibly, as if
something feathered had flown past his face.
A pair of swallows
fly out from under the iron gate
like offcuts of shadow
an onsite manager
had swept aside with his yard broom.
I say Welcome and turn
to see who had spoken.
A Condensed History of Witchcraft
First came the need to rhyme, because companion planting
was never enough on its own. A flax seed pressed into soil
in light from a just-risen moon became a brood parasite
& a guarantee that seasonal abundance was forthcoming.
Having bloodied her mouth with blackberry juice & a lie
about intimacy, she made the eyes on moth wings open
& close like passwords, then passed unnoticed by woods-
men into hickory smoke. Then came the planetary signs
like stars burning out in threes & fours, & comets with
tails of ice flying forever, & once or twice to be seen by
those who say we are pinned to the planet yet released
simultaneously. Spells of course, & how they were lived
not invented, to be gifted or cast for healing in dactyls
hooded as falconry. Flames feathered when shavings
of iron were fed to them, or hallmarks were stamped
into silver. Old age was a handbook on how to tell
narcotic from edible narrowstem, like a bodice pulled in
by a crisscross of lace, then unhooked by starfall.
Hair when burned had the animal reek of closure.
The word extinction was still glowing at the forge
and the names of children were entered like charms
into lined black ledgers to be summoned when memory
falters then fails in fire & earth.
As chickens seem to love the sound of rain on the tin
roof of their shed, they are also drawn
to the embering glow of a flower I drip-fed
with tonic water, the quinine in its veins
appearing as blue in the black light I wired
to a branch in the garden where the Gold
Laced Wyandotte, a breed with plumage
like tiny amber flames outlined in charcoal
congregate as if in homage to the flower’s thin
pool of light, and when it rains, they scuff
and shuffle away to their shed, leaving one
luminous moment for another.
It wasn’t the eye
that grew inside
he used for fun
that opened in
his neck it was
the second heart
that kept apace
he threw at it
spells & dirt
its chambers lit
sections he had
rigged with red
& yellow bulbs
to showcase how
free radicals go
around the hip
are made from
Here we go he
liked to say be-
fore the trap
door in his head
swung open to
reveal the twin
clocks he’d wind
by walking slow
he was a man
for every scene
love is made on
ocean stones or
single beds he
from petrol tins
& orange crates
his second heart
was famous for
the sound it made
when he was with-
in singing range
of domestic birds
with liner notes
for mating calls
it made a series
of quips & over-
when he’d stand
astride the pool
he consulted for
the eye inside
the mouth his neck
two hearts were
with birds he loved
to feed & name
a beating wing
a clockwork heart
a dovetailed box
for a brain.