Monday, 11 July 2011


A quotation mark in space around the hollow
bones of the universe. A carousel spinning out of control.
You’re flung off to the bottom of a scroll
of dark where nobody can follow.
These metaphors for all that is outside you –
the vortices of the scary-beautiful –
look, they are inside you. You feel the pull
of your own heart as the universe rides you.
Those yellow flowers in that earthenware jug.
The spill of wind under eaves. Where are we?
Where are our co-ordinates? A fly dances
on a skim of air. It’s as if life were a drug
in the system. The universe spins free
of us. Here’s where we are. Here’s where we take our chances.


Chances, and several. The way sun dips across
a wall, the angle at which rain strikes a face.
Chance just has it so, that in one place
devastation, another the mourning of loss,
and here such happiness it fills a minute
for ever. I couldn’t keep my eyes off the older
woman’s face, as if I were its only beholder,
its sad crumpled beauty, its cabinet
of curiosities. I can scarcely believe my own.
Or yours, how the whole structure is maintained
and holds firm. Somehow we have gained
the world and are losing it in every bone
and cell, as if to chance. You eyes touch mine
in chance light, in perfection, as in rain.


Three times this week I have trodden on a shell
on the lower step when it was very dark
and I was too preoccupied to mark
the point at which it cracked before. The smell
of wet grass was gentle, intoxicating.
Clouds were bruises of thunder, the light mere spots
up ahead. Distinctions were lost in knots
of deeper or fainter black. My bed was waiting
for my mind to wind right down. Meanwhile at home
you lay in ours as if at the back of time
that too was waiting to draw and settle us
into its own bed. Like the snail in its brittle dome
it waited, and we rose next day to this rhyme
that swims out of the dark, this nautilus.

For Clarissa 11 July 2011 - Our forty-first anniversary. Poem begun at Lumb Bank.