Katherine Gallagher - 2
He sits and looks into the space
of the table,
lights a chain of cigarettes
over his head.
His heart is burning
down to his shoes.
It should never have happened,
But she's gone. . .
He can't believe it,
he can still hear her
on their net of wild stings
gathering her things,
wrapping up the life of her own
she was always telling him about.
We have covered him with real flowers
and taken him from country to country.
It's always the same journey --
people standing in the streets
as we carry him by.
And our hands tremble
under his weight,
our eyes are shocked
by the riddle of tongues
presenting the same paradox
in every country --
the whole human voice as background
shrilled to fever
about keeping the guns at bay.
I have known you for a year
and we've chosen yellow flowers
to sit beside.
Now our picnic's over
and you've taken my picture.
We may as well go back, through more pictures -
see children on a hill move into the skyline
past village-houses suddenly painted by sun.
This is our walk - the partnered graining.
If we argue, you say Don't,
we're wasting breath.
Our words must float
flaring, extravagant as flowers.
Our child lost in Kew Gardens -
acres, acres and us peeling back
desperate for another chance. . .
Tourists passed smiling - blossoms, trees
blurred into policemen's radios,
children's cries cutting -
a three-year-old's blind signals.
He had gone, vanished
while we raced the afternoon's
frenetic maze, dread and nausea
jagging our ribs.
An hour's nightmares magnified -
waiting in one place as directed,
with reassurances gathering like balloons,
plummeting to a despair.
Suddenly my mother, stern heart
moored between separations, deaths
and years of loving, stood there
marking time, waiting too.
For years I dreamt you
my lost child, a face unpromised.
I gathered you in, gambling,
making maps over your head.
You were the beginning of a wish
and when I finally held you,
like some mother-cat I looked you over -
my dozy lone-traveller set down at last.
So much for maps,
I tried to etch you in, little stranger
wrapped like a Japanese doll.
You opened your fish-eyes and stared,
slowly your bunched fists
bracing on air.
we watched seasons
seep into our skins
saw the seasons fail
now we find ourselves
packing once more
choosing a direction
the sky weightless
before our eyes
the cart piled ready
we scratch final messages
wedge ourselves on board
elbows jarring our sides
suddenly the driver
jerking the reins in
as the load tilts
starts to break on itself
The White Boat