Centuries

Moulding tides, casting waves,
work, abrade coarse rock
to rounded pebbles.

I pick one and skim
centuries across the surface.

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I Found A Dead Fly In My Beard

and I do not know how long it had been there.
The sweet thing, nestled, clung to a follicle,
black, silent, minute, and a winged witness
to my words, my breath, my pulse, routing
along my jawline, neighbour to the food
I ate. Perhaps it even had a moment to share
the scent of my sandwich, the burn of mustard
through my skin. We were close, you and I,
and went together through most of a day.
In the morning, maybe, you found solace there,
comfort in my mess of bristle and hair, and passed
soon after. I half-thank the people I met today
for not telling me about your small, quiet presence.
There are not many things we share,
humans, animals, insects, and even, perhaps,
your last breath, the final, tiny seep, expelled
into mine, and I’ll carry you always from now.

What Stayed

I found you in the morning. Curled in the corner.
Your rich walnut back and coconut belly coat
cuddled in a tiny crescent. Still upon the sawdust.
He’s just gone to sleep, she told me,
from kind cradled arms.
I said some words and wept and then I buried you
in a hole that took ten minutes to dig.

I can’t remember the name I gave you
but I can summon from that memory your light weight,
how you fit my palm as I carried you to the garden.

.

We met in the hospital, followed the nurse down the stairs,
crept into the ward and found you, tucked in tight,
and then we gathered at the side of the bed,
closed the curtains, watched as the nurse attended,
and your breathing quickened and then it slowed
and your cheeks lost their volume
and your complexion shallowed
and your chest deflated
and your shoulders sank
and your head dropped to the side
and you went quiet.

Your old, gruff voice I can’t quite recall.
What stayed was the weight of your heavy hand,
cold and coarse, as I held it to say goodbye.

Songs, Stars

I took the ten-twenty into town today.
Walked the promenade. The market.
The busiest the place has been in years
and I felt lonely. I left
to drink coffee by the canal,
decided to feed the ducks.
A whole afternoon went,
tossing them crumbs, freckling
the still water with bread.
Trying – to ignite a night sky
with bright stars in that black
thick of peat. Those ducks pecked
at each morsel, dipped their heads,
came out, and shook off the water.
Before, I nearly bought a beer
for the man who sits outside
the post office. I would have spent
a whole day listening to him sing
that he lost his father in a house fire,
and that he is not scared of death.

On Writing

What is there to say
of the small plot
of my work?

It stands collected,
waiting quietly
like a forest
of dumb giants.

Some confused
whittled wood,
trees trimmed,
trimmed
to no exact.

Peeled bark, healed,
scabbed, roots upturned,
branches hacked.

A few I left to grow
to see how tall
they could get
with no guidance.

But this is no way to live.
And so I’ll take an axe.
Start swinging

Silent Night

It is too often now
that I think how rare
the silent night, free
of wailing sirens,
post-pub songs,
lads kicking dustbins
down the road for fun.

How many of those meek few
who keep the silence in-
between? In chippies,
pharmacies, canteens?

They know the fragility,
of quietness, those who
cup silence like an old
mouse, a downed sparrow,
and keep it close
to their chests.

Swing, Swing

After the war ended,
they celebrated here
for three days straight.

Sole prints and heel pinpoints
still mark the floor in wild
constellations of jazz and swing.

That night, seventy years later,
watching a moving mass of youth
dance to drum and bass, I saw it,

somewhere in the midst
of it all. The flash of wingtips,
the twirl of a petticoat,

like curtains closing on that
world of war when you danced
for love of life and nothing else.