Names of the Moon
tongued smooth by black sand.
Starflecks on a sable field,
sour white, bleached as night,
juice dried, a flat splash.
dun metal edged like a
flint shard, spent, effaced,
the ghost profile watching
west, the setting point.
hook hanging, depending nothing
clipped strings of light,
the dead hair of comets.
tugged and twined, frayed against
the cape and cowl, shrugged high
and loose in ice-heart
milk or smoke or silica,
obscuring the macula, watching
only what she remembers
of red shift, of spectrum drift.
infected by a flushed horizon
thus pink and purple,
Eyes in the night:
Strange word, ‘stroke’ - a gentle sleep
and then you wake up,
changed. Caressed by infirmity
on the brown hill, kissed
by disability as you climb
the long drive. The farmhouse tips
and, heart in crescendo,
you embrace the grass.
Indifferent sheep manoeuvre,
crowding out your sky.
You lie in a lump, adrift
at the field’s edge, floating
on the dead raft
of your limbs.
The sun nails light
into your one good eye.
Near dusk her scarecrow voice
scatters your crowding dreams:
she calls you from the house,
the sound of your name
curling out of the past,
a gull-cry, fierce, impatient,
tearing at the membrane
that has dimmed your world.
you are another species now.
Your medium is clay and saturation.
Mummified, like the bog-man
trapped by time, you lie dumbfounded,
mud-bound and uncomprehending
as the sun slips down
behind the hill.
The urgent fingers
scavenging for a heartbeat,
fluttering like bird-wings
at your throat,
are busy in the dark.
You feel nothing
of their loving panic,
All love, all optimism, pain,
all memory, desire coarsen,
thicken into vegetable silence.
A dim siren wobbles in the dark.
And then rough hands manhandle
your clod-heavy bulk..
Night swallows the spinning light
and closes in like smoke.
Across my godless sky
a magpie skids,
a barcode flash,
I paint a cross
onto the air.
And then that night
it’s the full moon
bagged in clouds
swollen with snow.
I must drop
three wishes into
before the clouds
hustle her away.
In a last heartbeat
of light, I invest
a trio of dreams.
But silently, as if
to confound negotiation,
snow fills the bowl
of the universe,
the sky falls to meet
the rising earth
and the seams
are drawn. White
darkness, a breast
of feathers. Without
my lodestars, compass
spinning, this sailor
his course alone.
Bebee Ellen's Merripen*
Sometimes they stand in twos
and threes at the edge
of the road, arms folded,
eyes unfocussed, expecting nothing
but more of the same. Dogs bark
staccato over the pulse of generators.
Washing flickers between the vans,
random semaphore, and clocks
run slow. Sun rises over the wasteland,
sets behind the chain link fence.
And on Sunday old Aunt Helen died.
Inside her trailer mourners fidget,
watched by the gold-haloed faces
of her best Crown Derby plates.
No-one speaks but half-words form
in the gas fire’s popping, in the wind
around the broken door. Holding flowers
and a card he cannot read, brush-headed
Johnny, the boxer hero, racks tears
into a cushion. Sister Lizzie
glances sideways, gnaws a fingernail.
Traffic raises curtains in the rain
and Georgie stands where his mother
used to sit at night with her roll-ups
and her pint of tea. Arms folded
and his eyes unfocussed, he dreams
awake, pondering atavistic visions
of the fires of Little Egypt,
of the briar and the gorse,
of slower tides than these
that pull us all from history
and into the new lands.
*Bebee Ellen’s Merripen: Aunt Ellen’s Death in Anglo-Romani.
Bridge of Dreams
Sitting here between you in the dark,
breathing hard from the stairs, your cry
my summons, I wonder where these boat
beds are floating you all tonight. I wonder
what kind of cataract spilled you and then
splashed you back. Is there for us a commonwealth
of dreams? I ask into the dark. Are you both
heir to my dusty fears? You lie across your beds,
beached starfish, the ragged pulse of nightmare
flickering behind your eyes. I try to read
its narrative through shadow and across
the years. Is there, then, a great pontoon
of dreams, bound together like Xerxes’ ships
across the bay? And may I cross it, boat
by boat and so go back, go forward?