Just at the spot where you tripped
the stair-tread creaks in your ear.
The radiator contracts, ticks, clicks
out of time with the kitchen clock.
An airbrick shrills. Window frames sing.
Under the roof gusts clutch and snatch
the slates. Curtains shift.
Damp clothes flap on wire hangers.
A tap groans, strains, and a dam bursts.
The iron key scrapes, rattles
in the lock. A door moans its last drop
of oil. We are unhinged.
This poem has also appeared in Message in a Bottle.
You might draw a basking snake,
curled within the curl of a branch
or the flicking tail of a ringed lemur
on your shoulder in Madagascar;
your pen might take that curve,
those unprepossessing angles,
unnerve them into some fantastic creature:
a post-rock poster for a band
thumping and droning on Icelandic shores
where prone people let the beat
wash like a tide that knows no odds
between now and forever;
or, apocalyptic, you might conjure
waves of hangers just like this, twists
of wire spiralling like triffids, bursting
from dry-cleaners’ shops to seize the streets…
but I remember coats. The black, the green
and especially the red one, a gash,
a splash of smile against the grey
like the way you shone
the day we climbed up Beamsley Beacon,
saw Yorkshire glow in wagtail grey and yellow
and we made snow angels.
In the afternoon we found a village café
strangely stuffed with model railway parts
for children to dream up new worlds
and dads to condense theirs
in attic rooms that maybe look like yours
with unused hangers in a recess
of might-have-beens. I hope they know
that miles away someone a bit like you
is adventuring, has got their coat, their smile.
Right now, this deadweight under a harvest moon
could pivot, start a roll of upward motion.
Weight and counterweight still echo tidal motion
while stranded stevedores watch reflections on East Float,
dreaming the ghosts of grain ships. In glass offices men float
new visions, conjure swings in fallen fortunes.
On roads where even weeds won’t thrive, seesawing fortunes
have come to rest. Every roof and joist is slack.
Wise women strain their eyes. They know slack
water signals turning, though the bridge span opens
for practice, not for trade. Some days it opens
its industrial mechanics for observers, tourists
of a sort. At the ferry terminal café they serve tourists
mugs of dark tea, feel the west wind chill the shoreline.
Duffel-coated shadows grip railings on the shoreline,
scan ripple-mirrored city lights for signs of change,
a shiver at the fulcrum. One day they’ll sniff the change
in the salt wind, they say. They’re asking for the moon.
This poem first appeared in Ink Sweat and Tears, August 2015