Mama, did you know the precious amethyst shadow hours
I spent beside you, cuddled cosy-close, nestled in blankets of light,
shawled in your red-gold hair? I kissed each tear you cried;
each one a starlight pearl forged from the depths
of your fragile soul. I rocked seashell-shut to each lullaby note
and silently watched as you rocked my cold, empty cradle.
Sometimes you sensed me coiled at your breast -
a small balled knot of grief. You felt my tiny fingers plucking at you
as tingling shivers. And sometimes I bounced sunshine-free
on your knee, a giggling orb of light.
Little one, once again I felt you here,
entombed in the womb of this eternal everywhere room,
your spirit sifting through my fingers like hourglass sand.
Pain has blanked my mind wraith-white, but I felt
your lips nip the warm rosebuds of my nipples
as I pressed a lullaby to the delicate shell of your ear
and brief blessed seconds spun out like years.
My sentient heart will always hold you, my grip will never slip
as my earthbound hands, human-warm, reach through time
and heather-shadowed ether to love and care for you.
*'phantasy' is a deliberate misspelling, an amalgamation of 'phantom' and 'fantasy'
My slender boughs are bowed
by the great weight of my grief,
and these are not leaves
cascading to soil, but tears of teal.
I am shaken by a sorrowful breeze,
my sap taken by the fading light,
dried out and hollowed, a rasp of parched bark.
Creaking and weeping
with the weight of my mythology
as cold takes hold, scoring its mark on bark,
rippling and stippling my leaves,
a shivering shroud of green settling over me.
Yet eternity rings coil at my core, ensure
tiers of teardrop leaves will glisten with life again,
drooping and dripping in a shimmering baptism of rain.
I wake to a world of tin,
white and pewter light enters my soul,
all is quiet, muffled, wrapped in cloud.
And the trees are no longer proud;
they are brown withered old women,
I have never seen them so before.
This season must be sacred
that it can drain the world of life.
How long can my heart survive this great freeze?
The sky, too, seems to be dying -
it is still and completely colourless.
Dolorous bells chime; they carry on the wind.
The world shivers;
the gutters run like rivers,
carrying, in their ice-curdled currents,
sweet wrappers, crisp packets,
and the mouldy stench of dead bracken.
There is an unfamiliar harshness in the air.
Raping the hill the wind's chill
gusts into my face, seizing my breath.
A flock of breathless leaves
assaults my body,
swarming like bees.
My five once-proud apple trees
are bunched and gnarled to five brown fists.
The brittle grasses rattle
and the hawthorn
proudly exhibits its prickles.
An orange spark unlooses itself
from a pile of burning wood
and ignites the colourless sky.
The flint light stares me down:
the icy iris of winter's eye.
Grey sky, grey river, two grey, drizzled walkers.
The last roses are over
and gardens are in their death throes.
The white light of winter dazzles me,
the wind gags me with my wild blown hair.
on the needly boughs of the spruce.
I have your telephone number in my drawer.
It is the old dead bit of mummy cloth
of an old dead relationship,
coffined in its coldness.
There is a nobility to all this, an impressiveness,
in the face of it I am beaten small.
This I have to beckon me through the winter:
mud in ruts, and the frozen earth of March.
Meanwhile, amorphous clouds pass over
It is thirty six years ago, and I am with her in the garden,
where July is a picnic of egg sandwiches, cress-stippled,
the fuzzy down of peaches, acid-yellow tang of lemonade.
Her fingers have the delicacy of dancers
as she deftly mixes paint on a palette blue as the sky -
blobs of acrylics bright as sweet shop candy.
Summer is a sizzling colour wheel, spinning in its heat hues -
cadmium orange, pyrrole red, gold ochre -
those fever flames that blaze across her page.
My small world is warmed by the sun in her smile.
Russian vine stitches a delicate doily over the shed roof.
The heat-glazed garden shimmers and buzzes.
There is a twilight world under sweet clusterings of lilacs:
a cool shock of shade, pendulous-legged black flies
hovering in the murky mauve.
China white stars of jasmine light my way.
Please keep me close. Let me stay.
It is twenty six years ago, a morning of mourning,
and the notes of the dead bells toll
as, mist-muffled, they roll
through November's sleet streets.
I close my eyes and the sun in her smile parts the clouds.
Sober-suited people crush and cluster in pews;
row upon row of perylene black, winter-pale faces titanium white.
Stained glass windows filter and warm the ash-grey light
until her coffin is a vibrant palette of rainbows.
There are stories - lots of stories - anecdotes,
a crimson-backed journal she wrote,
a painting she painted, coffin-propped,
a poetry reading - one of her own -
Tapestry is a wondrous thing, in it the lovely colours sing. . .
Creamed rice-colour roses heap sweet
on her stone - a slate plate serving up a dead name -
and carnations splash cadmium scarlet
like blood throbbing from the gash of grief's raw wound.
It is now, and I am alone, taking a short cut home
through evening's rich palette.
Elegiac elms shed viridian tears,
and the sky is a burnt sienna explosion.
October's umber seeps into November's sepia tones.
My mind is coloured with her and then.
I hold a small cameo box that held
the colourful spill of her pills: kaleidoscope planets
orbiting my loneliness, spinning off into nothingness. . .
Dark figures fill the park: silhouettes, shadows
following me home; spirits stepped from her portraits,
faces pushed down into coat collars, crinkled with frowns.
Paint-pinned people in their primaries and pastels,
on canvas, under glass; stopped heartbeats of the past.
Trapped moments on paper and boards.
I close my eyes and see the sun in her smile,
recall how, since her passing, life has become a free fall,
a parapet leap without parachute.
And the smudged charcoal lines of memory
are beginning to blur, fading like her watercolours. . .
in memory of my grandmother
In the heat-throb of summer you'd come to me,
drifting in on the fragrance of June and July.
Beneath the flower-wreathed window, in lunar lambency,
the warm sandalwood wind tonguing my sweat-slicked skin,
passion's perfume seeped through pores,
love's heavy scent dried on my thighs.
You vanished in autumn - a rasp of dry leaves.
Now you appear in slivers of streetlight, muted in moonlight;
the sour yellow rind of a thin moon, gone bitter.
I love to watch the tilt of your tender-tipped fingers
cupping the teacup's rounded heat,
the way you would gently cup my breasts,
your hands coiled lovingly around their warmth.
The roil of boiling water, the fluid swirl
of aromatic amber flowing over delicate flowers
as spiralling steam scents the room sensual,
rose-redolent and perfumed with jasmine flowers.
Lustrous light turns the day liquid: our private gilded hour.
Lemon sunlight slivers sharpen our eyes to each other.
Your fingers move with practised, deft fluidity,
absently caressing the chintzy china;
the air heavy with heady scents of the orient,
a tingling-brisk kiss of bergamot upon your lips.
I watch you lingering, filtering the fragrant leaves,
your fingers frisking the fragile porcelain,
florid and swelling with heat;
your lips dipping to sip sugared gold.
satin spools unravelling
through dark threads of trees
fragile crocheted filaments
luminous lunar lacework
scattered sequin stars
bright beads on night's black fabric
silken starlight strands
darn darkness with silver yarn
moonlight's purled embroidery
Light searches softly for me down here in the loamy dark;
I offer my awakening self to the vast blue canvas of sky.
Leaves filter a soft sigh of air through trees
Yielding their branches to the balmy, blossom-swirling breeze.
Open me gently to promises that still pulse in me, let me
Feel the sweet green unfurling of hope and possibility.
Turquoise murmurings of water seep into my scented skin.
Hear me as my floral notes begin to sing of a happy return of spring;
Efflorescing in sun-gold streams and trembling sunbeams.
Valleys sling their green hammocks between the hills
And pale fingers of light slide softly under my lucent skin.
Lucid memory will return again: how the sun's rays reached for me,
Luminous upon my white fragrant frailty; how the vast expanse of blue
Entranced me, as I awakened to ascend the ladder of light,
Yearning for my perfumed release from the earth's cold clamp.
I stumbled through twisted tinsel streets,
oblivious to ice and seasonal shouts,
muffled by snow-silence; a mannequin moving through mists,
quietly fragmenting behind frost-fragile walls of frailty.
Bleak winds blew open the hinges of my hypothermic heart,
wailed a wintry lament only I could hear -
ice-shrapnel words blown to lodge in my ear: you've lost the baby.
Those four words were spiked icicles, glacier-cold;
hope disintegrated like snow-powder as they pierced me.
Streets seemed pregnant with the plumpness of babies,
their waxen doll faces bluish and cold,
their pink gummy mouths demanding, demanding.
And my breasts were frozen roses,
too iced to feed their tiny need.
Snowflakes trembled like butterflies blown from the Arctic,
or the feeble flutter of a failing foetal heartbeat.
The town became a barren expanse of white:
cold crystals drifting, acres of snow-diamond light.
But shops shimmered with heat, bulged bauble-gaudy
with the fatness of consumerism.
And I was reed-slender, my womb a hollowed-out tomb.
Everywhere, babies bloomed, precious as poinsettias,
mouths like petals, squirmy with hungry red cries and squalls,
echoing, echoing, as I squinted into the white squall.
And a ribbon of milk unloosed itself silently,
sudden and scalding, like a fountaining of tears;
a lacework trace soaking my shimmer thread sweater dress;
a single, small, white thaw as I silently unravelled,
stumbling through streets that spooled like silver yarn -
for 'Fragment' contest
Silent in its violence, the sun
lays its ancient fire hand on the heat-scoured
concrete of the promenade,
the boxy seafront chalets tilting and creaking at angles,
the scorched, salt-stiffened gardens,
sand dunes, the screaming blue sea.
It is so difficult to accept a loss, a deprivation.
Innocence flaps its winding sheet behind me,
its mummy cloth of myth.
As from an isolated moon I see
the first cold breaker rush to engulf me:
an underwater undulance,
undercurrents of menace, of malice.
The sand-strewn strand stretches into infinity,
shimmering with the visions, the voices, the echoes,
the faceless departments of government and society.
I watch the insouciant people around me,
they possess a flatness, like blank paper.
They hump and lug plastic picnic paraphernalia,
ridiculously, all beach grime and blistered backs,
reduced to a red cindery glow.
Ice creams, scooped from the freezers
in trinkety seashore shops,
are clutched in sunburned hands.
They are spreading striped sunbathing mats,
snide and smiling slyly.
Is it a mirage, a delusion,
plucked from the desert-dry air?
The air snags in my throat: the flat summer stench
of warm wood, sun lotion, billowing cotton -
blank but expansive; the creaking, the flapping.
A strange wind howls and banters in my ear.
And the train shrieks through its station -
the station of my brain -
a riddled red abyss, poker-hot.
The sun is sinking:
a disc of fire, a blood clot.
Water floods the ridgy shallows,
eddying into treacherous pits.
The black gun muzzle of my mouth
flays the oxygen from the air.
My nerves a hive of wires suffering
the scarlet atrocities.
Pokers put out my eyes.
Squeezed by the forceps of agony
I see nothing, nothing
but a mirage of wavering dunes closing in
and the sea splintering; a multitude of glass glittering.