The town tonight is like a little scuttled ship — the river
closed with ice and each road, each roof frost closeted.
Still, in spite of this, in spite of snow, the roses push up blade
by blade to shake out their small white ﬁres, and will not close.
And I must confess this stirs in me now another road, another
ice-clutched path which, despite the winter, would not close.
Further down it I have walked, past the harbour locked into the hills
to where the sea turns in its sleep, its one white eye half-closed.
And though I name this home I feel it as a roof stripped off —
a scab, an old wound which, despite the years, will still not close.
Still I cannot say which map or scroll of sky I’d used then
to guide me back, or which alternate life I’d then had to close.
And though it moves in me still — the sea, I know I can’t return
to that same world the tide, that time has now dragged closed.
What My Body Showed Me
This window wiped suddenly clear
in winter shows
the old wood up on the hill
I stood in last autumn
just to cut an hour out of time
to absorb one season giving
birth to another the huge trees
stripping their own bones clean
until I felt I was no longer alone
that something else
was moving then stopping
then locking its breath against sound I listened
so intently then I felt
my own body leaving me I followed it on
until in a clearing up ahead I could see
silent as the snow
as if it had been there all along —
a human that had been taught
nothing of love.
It beckoned to me then I was
but still I edged closer
until I could see this person’s lidless eyes
their utter lack of skin
and hear the noise their mouth made
as if someone had shown them a ﬁlm
of the whole world burning on repeat
as if they had then somehow lived
they spoke each morning feels like stepping backwards
into boiling rain
they said this and at once
I knew how before me stood
the body I will have to wear
if all that can still be saved is lost
Why I Have Chosen Not to Have Children
No part of me wants to remember the ﬁrst time I felt it —
dipping hands into the hen-house to ﬁnd each bird
a cinder, each egg still scolding hot, not yet hatched.
Later, climbing ﬁelds to ﬁnd cattle birthing
the huge black coals of their calves, alive
at least until the ash piles cool and the last cow splits.
Even our midwives with oven mitts cannot claim
our infants’ new fevers, softly they sing
knowing something else burns through them
but the lymph in their limbs. I feel it too
but say nothing now I hear drought knocking
through the forest, each birch, each branch,
each blade of wood a time sprung match. This
is how we come to love only what will not kindle —
the ﬂax-mud and the estuary still feeding the sea,
the burnt soil I press into my lover’s mouth, pleading.
Now, only the eyeless stand and signal for weather —
I have heard thunder shake out the whole sky and bear none.
And to think we thought the boatman’s song no warning.
How we sold him all our rain then cut him dumb.
All I Can Offer You Is This
How one evening each autumn,
a little after dark, the swallows return home.
How you can hear then in the roof their wings
clicking closed, their hive mind shutting down
each map that followed without intention
another map to these eaves, this house, I
come alive here, then I heal. But this autumn
the swallows have not come home.
The kitchen is silent but for the click
of the clock and the whir of the drum
and the hum of the stove and the drone
of the telephone and the world is now lighter
yet somehow, somehow also more heavy.
The Body’s New Weather
In waves it came. But waves so small at ﬁrst
the leaves dropping all summer
or the landscape’s frayed
yellow edges or the days we went
without wind. Then winter
packed up and didn’t come back. Then, again —
the glaciers burnt dry and the bears
suddenly without their soft
houses of snow. Then somebody
shot them and we thanked God for our climate’s
new harvest and we felt in
our own bodies this new food rotting —
strange heat in the lungs, cancer
ripening where the right meat
should have been and we named them
our own illnesses, maladies of the body
not of the earth the body
builds itself from. But then the earth
turned on us, each new season collapsing
until there was only high summer
and we felt then how the land must —
aching and empty and still we reached
into ourselves pulling up nothing. Or rather
not nothing but another new desert,
another woodland cut free of song.
Only then did our bodies turn themselves on
to protest like sirens in a city
that has already been bombed.
9 What My Body Showed Me
16 The Opened Field
18 Black Bird, Nine Nails, One Child
19 Fois Gras
22 Spring Without Voices
23 The Chapel in the Sea
25 Under Dartington Redwoods
27 Our Species
31 Snow Country
33 Why I Have Chosen Not to Have Children
34 Seasons — A Requiem
37 All I Can Offer You is This
38 On the Theme — Fire
43 The Body’s New Weather
44 Love as a Project for Small Children with Eyelids
49 I Lie Down On the Ground to Make Peace with the Fire
Jumping the Valley Towards Me
58 Seeing the Whole World Begin Kindling
61 Letter from My Daughters
BLOODAXE BOOKS LTD Registered Office: Eastburn, South Park, Hexham, Northumberland NE46 1BS, UK Registered Number 1656254 England VAT No 414 4062 89