Our disappearances make the best of us.
Exiting smartly like aeroplanes taking off in tandem
to inch white crosses over the stratosphere
as motorways unfurl below them
we find our beauty most fluid in opposite directions.
As the driver of a van carrying green beans,
ripening in their pods, winds down his window
to inspect the road-kill- the flat white belly of the hare
laid out like a pressed blouse over the guard-rail
seems as far away to me as we do from each other,
unsure now of even the most obvious names and numbers;
he crawls south through Hartlepool.
Love, do you remember the same things-
have you taken them with you as you have arrived afresh,
wrapped up in kitchen roll or local newspaper,
small bits of what and who we were.
Is it ever over, if I still remember
parting your hair like smoothing a bedcover
with the flat of my hand, as your chest rose imperceptibly,
and catching my own breath, I catch yours.
after Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill’s The Water Horse
I fell in love with a man who was a horse,
his round eyes you could drop stones into.
His tense knees I rubbed with ointment
until they softened like dough at my fingers.
His nose was ring-less, though my three ear studs
glistened like a constellation of silence above him,
and he left my newspapers coffee-ringed
and unfolded on my sofas, though I hardly noticed.
One night, he bolted, back door swinging on its hinges,
and in the wet street left no traces
but his horseshoes like rain charms on the tarmac
shodden now on my walls, hot as soldering irons
scorching the distance between us in hoofprints
as endlessly he fails to wake me.
I am becoming a bear.
It began in the tear-heart root of me
as I was sorting my pillowcases
in the airing cupboard.
My feet beneath the white sheet-linen
widening and clamouring like roses.
And my hands around the folds I’d wrought
As I lay in bed
I could feel its penances
sweeping over me
like a vicar’s tract,
my pores, one by one,
letting go of the old routine and act,
and opening up to the planted seed
of the wound
in the blood, in the hide
until my head transformed, ignited,
the stars unfurled, dastardly,
counterfeit as mirror-images
beneath my eyelids,
darkness low at my side
as an accomplice.
The white transducer scanned her belly
like an oceanographer scanning for baleen whales,
or baleen whales scanning for each other
miles apart, but pressed ear to ear
in the oil-thick mêlée, forming pictures
like cross-stitches from the clicking
of knitting needles, from the low rumblings
of whales churning their jaws in the darkness.
When she slid out like a muskrat,
half outraged, half subdued, flipper-less,
and we held her up to the light,
wiped the spray from her ears, she flinched,
her sound fleshing out in our hands,
in the snagged nets of our fingers.