The shudder always happens in my sleep.
Road signs, junctions, cat’s-eyes; pairs
of red squares in the night crawl closer.
A hypnotic hum of tyres on tarmac.
Never a hospital bed, never the blazing white
of surgery. Only a flickering of eyelids,
silent swish of metal, an exaggerated swerve
as brakes lock. An endlessly repeated motion
half a second before impact. Half a second
with the verge two yards too close,
the darkness two degrees too warm, the letters
on the tail-lights curiously readable.
This poem has also been published in Clear Poetry.
Life washes up in water meadows: twigs,
silt swirled downstream, common toads,
reed warblers, wagtails, landed barons.
Flotsam gathers. Laws, rights, privilege;
contingencies of weather, rainfall, eddyings,
bursting banks. Men seal settlements
in wax. Inscribe their names in torrents. Set rules
to curb the jockeying of jackdaws, magpies’
thefts. Raise barriers, useless against tides
and surges, wave regulations balefully
as white flags. Trespassers
will be prosecuted. Floods contained. They order
waves to back down, rivers to dry up.
Here is their parchment and portcullis,
their Keep Out sign. The bench, the bar,
They Shall Not Pass. Except where reed-beds
absorb flows, embrace each beached arrival,
offer bulrushes, alluvium, kingfishers.
• picture from The National Archives. This poem has also appeared in Well Versed.
If I could winter well, fling swirls of snow
across the trodden mulch of this scabbed year,
the green tomatoes harvested, the slow
decomposition of our summer into fur
of fungus well advanced; swing sprays of frost
across your windows, darkening their shade
until your total store is absence;
if I stripped leaves till your branches, criss-crossed
against a sullen sky, reduced to crude
scratches and charcoal what was once our essence;
if I hung like light in a dying beech,
would you dream a resurrection? Would we speak?
This poem has also appeared on the Ground poetry website