No 16 - June 2005
Sunlight explodes onto the wet road.
Ahead, the dark wall of the downs,
a border line.
The gateposts are tangles of briar.
No one has yet dead-headed the daffodils.
Buds of magnolia glow as if lit from inside.
I never remember until it’s too late
how the draughty cloakroom off the hall
is like a Bluebeard’s chamber where
we have hung our child selves in rows.
Mine slips down from its hook
as I enter the house.
The kitchen was the hub –
potatoes bubbling over on the Aga,
chimney alive with starlings, singing
their hearts out, as we crunched
on toast, coated with black-berry jam,
boiled up in autumn with fruit flies and
blood from scratched fingers. I used to think
they’d chosen their snug home;
believed the chirping stopped
because they’d flapped their way
back up the narrow shaft to the small
gleam of sky.
There were ten in the bed, and
the little one said, Roll over, roll over,
How big? An elephant. A tennis court
on wheels - my mother’s father’s parents’ bed.
If it should go careering down the village
its legs would straddle the street.
There should have been space for us all
to lie down side by side and no-one
He shrank into it, his last day there.
I followed the ambulance, saw
how the house had scaffolded
the man. It felt like sacrilege to look
down where his fingers scrabbled at the
mean thin plastic tube. It hurts, he said.
I had to place my hand on his, lift it away.
Straighten the sheet.
Boat. A sailing dinghy. He built it.
You had to swim the length of a breakwater
to be allowed. But you could help – running
behind to grab the rubber roller, pumped
fat, drag it along the pebbles, place it, just right
under the curve of the prow, letting the weight
of the boat glide on air. You can smell it
now, musty and damp, like the inner tube of
your bike, or the rubber sheet on the
latest baby’s cot. Or a hospital bed.
How strong air can be. Their love,
a buoyancy bag to keep the ark afloat.
Didn’t they see how the little ones
down in the hold were fighting
not playing? Look at me look at me look
Wood ash, not quite visible, drifts into
the spines of books lining the walls,
clogs up the particles of day.
His high-backed armchair by the fire,
hers now. Ten years on, she still can’t listen
to Marlene Dietrich, Chopin, Oklahoma.
She sees us slant-wise in her mirror,
weaves us into narrative. As flesh
and blood we’d drown her.
Rapunzel brushes waist-length hair,
plaits it up into a knot.
She taught me: waste not want not
elbows off the table god is love
a stitch in time saves nine
I’ll do it myself, says the Little Red Hen.
She taught me: mayonnaise -
pouring oil, drip on steady drip
into the golden yolk
she taught me top to the bottom
bottom to the wash.
How to make my bed and
how to lie on it
In the best-behaviour room, sculpted
rose-wood preens its pink brocade.
See how prettily we cluster
round the baby grand, lid of its flat
scalp propped open, as her fingers rise
and fall, coaxing Auld Lang Syne and
Silent Night from the crocodilian keys.
Interiors make the simplest jigsaws - no
random fragments of cloudy sky. Here,
each head and limb is pressed into place.
Happy the house where the martins nest.
I step from carpet and cold wood
into the tiled space walled with light,
laced with dipping flight of birds, impelled
back to this house where sycamore, acacia,
elm, feather the edge of a lime-green sky
as the sliver of moon and evening star appear
to hang where they always did
above and a little to the left of the
one-legged cock on the weather vane.
Christine is our featured poet on the Cannon Poets official website:
- 10th Muse
- Angel Exhaust
- Blithe Spirit
- Brando's hat
- Brittle Star
- Cannon's Mouth, The
- Coffee House, The
- Dream Catcher
- Floating Bear, The
- French Literary Review, The
- Frogmore Papers, The
- Global Tapestry
- Grosseteste Review
- Homeless Diamonds
- Interpreter's House, The
- Journal, The
- Lamport Court
- London Magazine, The
- Modern Poetry in Translation
- Monkey Kettle
- Neon Highway
- New Welsh Review
- North, The
- Obsessed with pipework
- Oxford Poetry
- Painted, spoken
- Paper, The
- Pen Pusher Magazine
- Poetry Cornwall
- Poetry London
- Poetry London (1951)
- Poetry Nation
- Poetry Review, The
- Poetry Salzburg Review
- Poetry Scotland
- Poetry Wales
- Private Tutor
- Purple Patch
- Rain Dog
- Reach Poetry
- Review, The
- Rialto, The
- Second Aeon
- Seventh Quarry, The
- Smiths Knoll
- Strange Faeces
- Tabla Book of New Verse, The
- Tolling Elves
- Ugly Tree, The
- Wolf, The
- Yellow Crane, The