When you arrive
the years that have passed
pile in all over our faces. We smile
through the shrill air and
these crumpled versions of ourselves.
Somehow, we are smaller;
tumbled out of mind
and into flesh, blurring our neat
of those years have turned
through my head, like an ice cube
in the mouth, caught between presence
and escape, slipping and adhering
with a quiet thrilling pain.
Your speculating postcard watched,
over my desk for a month.
And so we meet to do
nothing in particular. We escape
to a gallery, dodging the hovering
questions, talk easily, of nothing at all.
Your train is due and I collect our winter
coats from the cloakroom where the attendant
has slipped the slender arms of yours
into mine. Like the years, we carry this
still‐life out onto the street
and uncouple them, awkwardly. Our touch
is brief as we empty our goodbyes
and button up against the chill before
we turn away onto the street’s fresh page
white in the new year’s sun.
I had sewn myself into a sailcloth shroud
of blue, stitched around me with the needle
of my sing-song laughter: my earth-bound
epitaph written on the evening. And I fell
freely, the sun blistered over my hands,
slipped out of the stream, unsealed from air, torn
down in the tumbling turn. My father thrust
my salt-licked tangle of feather, limb and dust
into the jealous blackness of earth.
But that soaring thrill’s not shaken from
my shattered bones - the swallowed sky clings
to the cloud of my fallen heart, flickering
in my throat, breathing me awake tonight.
Seized by height, scared of sun, a crumpled leg
jerks up. Arms shake to ragged wings: I clamber
out of boyish flesh, feel Grecian sun still throbbing
in the earth. I take fright, reclaim flight,
swift air smoothes my matted blood-stuck hair
to a feathered peak and panicked eyes turn
outwards. Sunrise cracks the edge of night
and turns the fist of me towards the cold.
That blue above, that bright blue, under me,
shining off the cooling snow. The higher sun,
undone from danger. The badge of all I’d been
in baubled melt at my wingtips, strung like gaudy coins.
I set my beak, a compass needle, north. I sing the chill
into the sky: wear wax to spite the claim of surface things.
[Previously publishedin Birdbook I]