Portraits of my face
everywhere I look a mirror of who I seem to be:
cauldrons bubble with children’s blood
born from holy tissue cells twist, heart beats,
creation of a mystery made so casually.
I meet you at the corner of the street
we turn and talk, eyes light
something unimaginable caught between.
Creation hovers in quiet rivers
breathes in the beat of thrushes song
lingers in the scent of roses.
Swinging in darkened garden, beyond the roses the rattling of the train shatters the night air. We watch it on nightly walks perched on railroad bridge to count carriages. Grandfather in his Homburg, slick raincoat like an early gangster possesses a certain sinister demeanour which makes passing strangers wonder if I’ve been abducted. Our evening pilgrimage, puppy bounding at my heels, my dress starched for eternity in black and white snapshots my daughter now envy’s; then the lullaby, a peaceful emergence into sleep his love songs sweet to my ear.
This was all I knew of life, his voice in song, the lingering smell of flowers, and the fragrance of love. There was the day I lay in a childhood fever, delirious watching phantoms on the stairwell, the art deco light a whirligig above my head, and you appeared from one of your journeys, beside you a walking talking doll as big as me, terrifying in her robotic splendour making me cower under the sheets in mock terror. We went on strange outings, majestic excursions to seaside towns, Margate and Tenterton, fun fair and tea shops the car a leather sarcophagus, me feeling more than a little car sick.
I took voyages on oil tankers, which my Grandfather engineered, huge expanses of metal with Greek sailors hefting oil drums, heaving me over the side holding me aloft one mile high above the oily waters, threatening to throw me to the seagulls. Your refrigerator was always full of sweets, and early life was my Gran knitting and ogling the wrestling, telling me tales of early years in Aberdeen, her father a tea clipper Captain taking opium to Shanghai, where there was a building with our family name. Watching her diamonds glitter, my diamonds, and my daughter’s after me.
Listening to the songs waiting for the unknown inevitable.
It came one night late and pulled me from my sleep, the woman from the beauty shop, this time not in orange, and me with no safety net to run to. Bundled in a car, puppy in a basket, red ribbon miles of trees, a frozen skyline, Yorkshire moors, cold, loss, and fear.
It’s like a chain that
clutches at my chest
tightens to squeeze out
refusing to relinquish.
It’s like a cold wind in spring
that reminds you
nothing stays the same
the only continuity hung
within the eyes that see it.
It’s like a thick fall of snow,
nothing is the same
the cold grows in shadow
from the ground upwards.
It’s like a dream where
I call your name
but I don’t know who you are
or where in heaven or hell I’m going.
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