Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Haunted House

O haunted House of black mirth, tell us true:
are outer workings of your grizzled face,
your pointed barbs, sarcastic derring-do
whilst ruthlessly unravelling each case
just a ruse? I swear that I have briefly
seen a kind of nurturing sweetness shine
beneath your clever visage (which chiefly
mocks): a kindness working to undermine
your contemptuous front. O brilliant man,
addict to music, puzzles and drugs, much
like Holmes in his day of mysteries, we can
see how you need a shrunken leg’s crutch.
Medical sleuth with guarded, arctic glance,
a heart beats still beneath your arrogance.

Teen Ghost

November in Wales is a clammy beast
dripping chill rain: at night, disconsolate
it rattles the house, screaming;
our grey farm road in the early hours
is a stripe on its back oozing cold sweat
hedgerows of stinging nettles and brambles
its bony stickles - its drool runs down my neck
as I stand waiting for the school bus.

I kissed an American boy in England this summer
before my family moved to this new country
and he writes still, though we won’t meet again.
I am stuck here with this other, terrible kind of contact:
you by the window in your white dress, dissolving
sobbing as though your heart would break.
Why do you cry? It won’t solve anything.

I study physics at my desk by your window
write letters to the friends dropping back
listen to the rain beat down on the cowsheds.
I try to sleep sitting upright with the light on.
I hate being able to hear you! You’re dead!
All your sobbing won’t stop you fading away.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

We dip our toes into an estuary, the morning after the wedding,

the young women stripped to their skivvies
leaping into the cold clutch of the water,
a seal rising to look.

There are no boys the right age,
only small brothers, cousins
and older men having a smoke.

We aunts and uncles long
to plunge ourselves into that fresh water,
but do not, with our return journeys beginning.

Or perhaps what keeps us from it is imagining
our middle-aged flesh in wet underwear,
nipples and hair showing through.

So we keep our clothes on and wade, and swing pebbles.
Remember being young, burning in dark water.
Aberystwyth Bay, March, 3 a.m.

I count thirty-four swans easing towards the horizon.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Time like locusts, my house like after thieves

While I
naked from sleep
warmed by an unexpected
benificent, empty hour
this morning waited, hopeful

like some other tree
when a redwood falls in the forest
and there's a pouring-in of light,

locusts darkened my house
swarming through the windows
onto every surface

and, shocked
I leapt up to sweep them from my desk
but they returned thickly

and I knew it was over
knew only when nothing alive
was left in the house
would they go, that if I let them
strip it all away

if I sat as if dead, as if not caring
whether there was sun
I could start again, perhaps

after a while
from floorboards, from the gloom
of the forest floor.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


We approached the clean edge of the grave hole
my sister and I.

Mary wound on the film of her new Bakelite Brownie
lining up a sharp picture.

We shouldn’t have seen how naked he was
the rusted arrowhead between his ribs.

Not just left behind, slumped from a battle
but laid out feet to the east in a Christian burial.

An Anglo-Saxon warrior, he was. We could see his teeth.
They took him up out of the ground to the Reading Museum.

He thought he was going to lie on the chalk under the earth
until Christ came.

Monday, December 7, 2009

the night we took fish from our own river and the police came

what a black night
thick rain
branches knocking windows
water tearing through gutter pipes

a car’s engine roared up the hill
and blue lights came flashing
into the farmyard
I grabbed both beautiful sewin
ran upstairs
to hide them
under my sleeping sister’s bed
and back down to the kitchen
full of teenagers in raincoats
where I watched the porch door open
saw a fishing gaff propped
against the inner door
and someone stepped quickly over
as if in greeting
to hide the gaff with his body from view

the policeman entered
looked around
wishing us noswaith dda a good evening
asked about our neighbour
at the next farm
what we knew about him
whether we had seen him

my father said he came for milk
twice a week
carrying his can

it was hard looking innocent
when so many of us were
dripping on the floor
fresh blood pooled
on the kitchen table
the policeman did not mention poaching
had bigger fish to fry
he told us
our neighbour had been on the run
for years
was wanted for murder
wore a wig
carried a loaded

Sunday, December 6, 2009


How heavy the pull of sleep seems now
while hidden clocks are sucking at the dark
and python sheets, sensing a soft throat,
close in. Beyond these thin walls
bleached winter streets wait, silent
for the shocking wail of the early train
and though, in distant buildings,
others toss too, and fret, I can
only think of the lucky ones: couples
and their dogs, padded down
while my solitary, thundering body
races on bleak rails through iron fields
into the mouths of towns, screaming.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Poems, Like Salmon

brought in on the tide to the untidy estuary
the landless river opening
the narrower and narrower
less and less salt flow
they thrust themselves into the high reaches of water
flash brighter than the fact of a saint’s grace
than the white arm of a dancer beatified with jewels
than the arrow of a goddess unable to miss its mark
where the light air touches them
where the sun blesses their ascent
and magic vapor sheds its dust on their lithe necessity
yet many fall back to the dark rock shadows
the burden of their eggs still on them