The cormorant inside my head
peers at the one in my heart.
It shakes its beak,
gestures with its wings
that it’s time to open, to ﬂy.
The cormorant inside my heart
calls back: Run, but a cormorant
can’t run. Hide, it calls,
but such a bird can’t hide. Fight. It ﬂexes its wings wide.
[Run-hide-fight is an active shooter drill US schoolchildren practise from the age of five.]
From the hallway you can see into every corner of our small ﬂat.
From the kitchen window: the rose garden, golf course, the Trossachs.
From the bath you can see Glen Road’s sky and sky framed.
From tomorrow all this will be different.
Here, now, it’s cold and snowdrops
have not yet ceded to daffodils.
Elsewhere, it’s warming, dimmer;
already the snowdrops are dropping.
Now is the time when the world
is blown open.
The last time I saw you,
really saw you, was in the office
that day when the announcements
started to come, but no one
understood yet what had happened.
You stood up, sharply pushed back
your chair so it straggled across
the passageway. Your tidy desk
lay exposed to dust that would build
between stacked papers.
As you walked away, you were pale,
your face – open.
I saw you again
at the funeral
but couldn’t see you
see anything, not
because of the tears
but the blankness
my eyes and brain held,
and my heart: it’s true
that the heart
halts as it hurts on.
I read you in the papers,
friend: I see you
and I read you and I wish
to hold your monochrome hand
as it rests across that small child’s head.
‘…we’re all living in after’
We go to the pub we always go to.
Blair the barman is there, the locals
and the Sky News reporters
asking everyone to comment.
We hesitate at the door,
not because we don’t want to talk,
though we don’t – only
pausing, outside a few moments.
Blair beckons us over,
serves us and I stretch
my hand over his an instant
longer paying. He lets it stay,
nods, then looks away
and we find our quiet table.
Some days we cried ourselves out,
packed our coats and climbed
the soggy rock to its small summit.
There was something about stepping
one by one, beside each other
without speaking, without the need.
At the summit we kept numb vigil
for what we couldn’t say.
We descended in mist,
our blurry outlines mottling
together. On spring days
now, when cold tips the hills
I can still see its cairn and trig point,
that chopped obelisk at its peak,
distant sheep folds, memorials of snow.
After the bumpy, miles-long track, we stored
ourselves in a far cottage beyond water.
Small dogs visited us and scurried
something solemn out the door with them.
Thin place, where heaven and the afterlife
lie close to the surface of the day.
I bathed and slept and cried; you walked.
We were colder than we’d ever been,
despite the ﬁre. Even when I watched
smoke chugging slowly from our own
chimney that day, I couldn’t connect.
Were we smoke, were we cold, were we left?
I walk our son all the way to his classroom door.
He thinks this is his idea.
I text you to say we arrived safely.
I text you to say I collected him.
I wait guiltily
outside locked gates.
The ﬁrst day there is an ambulance
outside the care home next to our son’s school
my feet start running towards the gate. I can’t stop them.
Our son joins Gym Club. He joins Cubs.
He wants a combat paintball birthday party.
On World Book Day, even his costume
for Young Sherlock comes with a pistol.
We try to act normal about these things.
Walking the hill to our old ﬂat,
the pubs and benches we used to visit
accumulate behind us.
The Golf Club rests greenly in its aisle.
The old new Tesco seems emptier now.
We discover play parks, museums,
heritage sites, that as students
we never deigned to find.
We watch the future
we dare not presume
run ahead towards
the climbing frames,
the swirled slide
that delivers him
lightly onto the earth.
I What the river leaves behind
12 The wall
13 In a schoolroom, the woodcutter
18 Loch Occasional
20 What the river leaves behind
21 It’s twenty-two years ago and it’s today
22 Bracklinn Falls
23 Watching the past in the waters of Loch Earn
24 The rain in the night
25 Fugitive dust
26 Lepus timidus
II Cold spring
31 Scottish spring
33 Cold spring I
46 Cold spring II
III The wild rain
52When we were stone
54 With a rootless lily held in front of him
56 Tonight my heart is open so hard it could shatter
57 Every day
58 Allan Water bridge
60 Facing north
61 Disappearance at six o’clock
62 Return by minor road
64 The weight of news
66 Historical markers
67 Wet morning in the cathedral square
68 A language learned abroad
69 The trees of the Trossachs
73 Dust, at intervals
74 The wild rain
75 Winter river
‘Courageous and moving.’ – Briony Bax, Judge (Poetry), 2016 East Anglian Book Awards, on the winning collection, The Print Museum
'It is these moments of stillness in Williamson’s writing, of stasis and contemplation, of sadness and such beauty, that make her poems unforgettable. They make you return to them, to find what made you stop in that silence.... A sense of extreme loss pervades her writing, but it is counterbalanced with a lightness of touch, a fluidity and a simplicity that keeps you reading.' – Tilly Nevin, The Oxford Culture Review on The Print Museum
‘At their heart is human tenderness and a sense of human friability... The poems display an incisive mind, a powerful imagination and an equally impressive purchase on language.' – Moniza Alvi & Paul Farley, PBS Bulletin, on Electric Shadow
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