The woman let off Death Row walked through a gorge
of chaotic limestone left by meltwater
and saw men everywhere.
They were climbing the steep and overhung sides.
Their feet flexed in thin shoes, toeing
crevice after crevice.
Their hands pried the split crag for brokenness.
and carefully worked out each nodule of rock
rejecting the frailty of this or that stone,
clicking in the knot
that would hold them from falling back to the passage.
She ignored arrows, made her own path
through tall-stalked, small-
headed ferns and young ash,
past a feral goat, newish horns knuckling up,
across cinquefoil-buttered grass, near-invisible swellings
of bluebell seed, a memory of leaving home–
or maybe a promise.
The climbers weren’t enjoying the view.
They climbed for the sake of the stone. One stopped
in a patch of sun, refusing to carry on
trusting the handshake of rock and rope
though below each man another looked up
holding a thin string.
She was looking for innocence
like an older woman standing over her young husband
allowing an undoing of long hair.
first published in Poetry Wales, 2008 and featured as poem of the day on Poetry Daily, August 26th 2008
‘Let them call her a wicked old woman! she knew she was no such thing.’ Vita Sackville-West, All Passion Spent
It isn’t New Year yet so Happy What?
Till then, it’s Boxing Day every morning.
Empty bags hang off the radiators.
Did it mean
we didn’t love each other
that morning he gave me up
though that same night he said, Let’s marry?
My striped dress hung
along my body
my abdomen as I walked, a balloon
sinking back down
its own string
after the decision.
The baby would have had to sleep in a drawer.
(not you who refuse to believe improbable notions)
the smallest cell refuses to die
in its everness.
Now I live in an attic
garden is the chewed melon skin of sky.
Old bins, old books. Death’s hardly ethical
in the light of such continuity. Last week,
the CEO of a charity named in my will
wrote to suggest ways to retrieve what I’ve lost.
Look, Christmas photos
of others’ other
Pocoyo, Juggling Balls.
First published in The London Review of Books, 1 Nov 2007