I dreamt last night that you were with me
and we walked along that path leading to the river and the ferry across.
(do you remember the ferry?)
It was summer, or so it seemed,
and the air was heavy & hot.
The sky was blue, cloudless, except for distant flecks of white.
Insects and small birds shared the air
— I’m sure I saw a dragonfly, iridescent blue/green
hovering over a flowering thistle
The path we walked was as I remembered it;
narrow and hedged on each side
by waist high wild plants & flowers - blue and white, some blood red,
green, alive, hosting many flying fauna that buzzed and flitted
from bloom to bloom.
But interspersed among the verdant growths were
angry-thorned wild roses, nettles
and the dark brown and black of dying flora.
I wanted to hold your hand but the nettles and harsh-thorned plants
grabbed at our clothes and gashed bare skin.
So we plodded single-file, not talking;
I knew you were behind me but had to keep turning round to be sure.
It felt as though we had been walking for an eternity
until rounding a bend in the path,
we saw the river in the near distance.
Blue-green-still, dappled by sunlight,
its surface broken by occasional movements
from creatures beneath.
As we drew close the to river’s edge and the grey wooden jetty,
I noticed the buzzing insects and flying birds had ceased their aerobatics;
there was silence, not even the gentle lapping of water against the riverbank.
Looking across to that distant bank it seemed blurred and indistinct;
an eerie mist hovered at that far shore.
There was a brass bell atop a post standing at the back of the jetty,
aged and stained.
You came to my side and took my hand but spoke no words.
I reached out to ring the bell but you squeezed my hand.
I looked to you and your eyes were fearful.
Shaking your head, you mouthed ‘No!’
I nonetheless reached up and grabbed the cord tied to the striker
and rang the bell.
Three times I did this.
But no a sound was made.
The silence was heavy now & looking skyward I realised dusk had crept upon us.
I looked out at the river and the mist that moments before
had been at the distant shore was now edging towards us.
The air chilled suddenly and in the silence
I could hear my heart pounding in my ears.
Your hand still clasped mine; it was clammy, cold.
I looked at you but your eyes were drawn to that distant river’s edge
And the mist that crept towards us.
I strained too to see into the approaching brume and saw a yellow light
in the now black, starless darkness around us.
It appeared to be hanging in the air.
Moments later, a small boat loomed from the mist,
the light bobbing on a spar at its prow.
And the ferryman, thrusting his pole into the green-dark depths of the river,
tall, thin, indistinct in the half light.
Silently the boat came to rest at the end of the jetty.
The ferryman caught my eye: I do not recall his face,
it was as though it was devoid of features.
He raised an arm and gestured towards us.
You pulled your hand from mine.
I looked at you but your eyes were locked on the ferryman.
He gestured again and you turned to me, smiled, and walked onto the jetty.
I wanted to reach out to you but I was frozen, paralysed.
I tried to speak but could not form any words.
In a few steps you were at the end of the jetty and stepped onto the boat;
it didn’t rock, almost as though you were as weightless as the mist around it.
I tried to call out to you but again no words came out.
You turned to me then.
Your eyes were sad.
You touched your hand to your heart then turned away.
The boat began to move away, back into the brume
and was soon lost to the night …
I gulped to inhale her soul
as she sighed while it spilled
as the blood of birth
and I cried at the absence of her future
I reached to catch it before it slipped away
but these sin-slick hands couldn't grip such purity
What would I have done with it anyway?
Kept it like a genie to uncork whenever regrets weighed most?
Whenever my shame crept out?
It escaped faster than I had imagined
though no feather fell
or flutter caught my eye
into a spinning growing void in which only one word is ever said
and always in a whisper
Here I am at the end of my rope,
I have nothing up my sleeve.
You've always had a reason to be scared,
this time you have no reason to worry.
I've grown old to the point of dying,
I have nothing to fight with this time.
Go ahead, knock yourselves out;
pretty soon, I'll be closing my eyes.
i met him last week
body cold beneath the ground
gone before I ever existed
i suppose that is a good thing
i’m downcast that i’ve never met him
but glad he never met me
he would have been sorely disappointed.
Flying over head
A mother sees her children on the ground
Their fragile bodies rotting in the unforgiving sun
There are not many feathers on the bones
They have been blown way
The black and blue scattered across the earth
Her flight wavers as she begins to scream
It is a slicing shout of sorrow
She plunges at the ground
Unable to to live without her children
Unable to live without the only thing
That brings joy in her life
She wants to join her children
She keeps falling
Until She becomes a soft brown blur
on the pavement below
Three dead birds
Three fallen stars
Two eased from the sedan.
A blanket, a brimming wicker basket.
A pond filled with geese, the birds claiming the embankment.
Water’s edge, he spun the blanket outward and
The geese scattered, and the cloth descended in an almost perfect square.
The valley’s familiar diversions, the white steeple a mile away,
Copses scattered acres apart, poked above the low brush.
Elbows propped in the afternoon heat
Listening to the rustlings in the bramble
Until the valley’s natural rhythms brought him sleep.
Awakened to the rustling of paper,
He watched her scatter bread crumbs,
Circling the water with goslings in tow as they
Nuzzled at the bits of dough, an odd parade
Until a goose made chase, and the dithered fowl
Marched her brood away
And the woman laughed an undignified laugh in delight.
Alone, glasses descended from his furrowed brow,
An envelope withdrawn,
Elegant script, long luxurious parchment perused and then
Extended to her on her return.
Her lined face turned away, skyward,
The glorious heat warming, much preferred
Above the chilling words.
Together, they sat until the day had cooled
And she wrapped herself in a thick sweater and
Their shadows distorted as they relinquished the day,
He guiding her in the gloaming before the beams of light
Bounced unpredictably in the irregular road.