Consume

 

 

Life itself is an act of consumption.

Lips are everything. A cherry, red

To burst on touch, unable to contain

Its tenderness, perhaps… a confection

Glazed with sight, served so sparingly,

Two mouthfuls of indulgence.

 

A waking warmth,

A fresh loaf of sleepy head beside me now,

A woken rest as soft as fresh-baked bread,

Golden.

 

For love itself is a servant of consumption.

 

 

 

The first line, and inspiration for the poem, was actually from Eddie Redmayne in a sci-fi film, the name of which I have entirely forgotten. It was the take-away feature of the entire thing. 

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English Comfort

 

 

And when you offer to listen,

you do so in the practiced ritual

of making tea.

 

You nod, pausing gingerly, your head

lowered over the kitchen surface.

You tend to me intensely through

the art of this instead,

the bag pressed tight,

strained right against the side

so it teases out darkly.

Bitter and teeth-sucked,

stained white china.

 

A chime of the spoon, the last

word, and then silence.

 

 

 

I find that a lot of my compatriots are much better at making tea than talking about mental health problems, as though one can be substituted for the other. 

 

Balderton Lake

 

 

Shadows stretching to an injured east,

Bruised and blackened evening over us.

The lasting signs of life are nearly gone.

 

A strange tide ripples out, these very last

Branches clinging to a sifting dusk:

While lake and shallows mourned us, under moon.

Guest

 

 

I don’t recall letting this thing in.

Not left outside our doorstep in a basket,

Cotton blanket:

Not given a note, or letter. I doubt I’d forget

Its arrival if it came by post, unsigned-for delivery,

A living cardboard coffin. Either way,

It’s here now. You

Fed it from the table, scraps from the plate, a

Grateful bin. You treated it to

Strips of conversation, leftovers, the off-cut

Words we’d left uneaten. It grew fat.

You wanted to name it, and make it real,

Make it ours: put a collar on it

Like a ring on my finger,

Soon it wouldn’t settle for scraps, it needed

Thigh meat, pure breast, only

Drank our best wine, slept in our bed

Whenever I was out of town, I’d find

Marks on the sheets, clawed on the walls,

Smears of its indulgence.

 

I helped fulfill it, I know. I never dared

Look it in the eye,

Ask to send the thing back, call the police, or

Find out how to kill it.

 

Either way: I guess it lives here, now.

 

 

 

Compurgation

 

 

Trial by ordeal: in that respect

Not much has changed, though much besides forgot.

 

And jury means the same: a conjuring,

Together-swearing, together-summoning.

 

Swear with words, the truth to be the truth.

Swear on words, the oath to be an oath.

 

Together-summoning, for fear that other

Summoned things may come to rise, if not.

 

 

On Reaching Europe

 

 

I think the moonlight brought me back. Held under,

The ripples kept me jealously: brought to me

Precious forgotten things, as gentle leaves,

Silver swimmers. But this cold, dark praise

Was sleeping comfort: silt between my hands,

Pouring through my icy fingers. At last

A higher tide ascended, brought me out

White as death, now sleepless on the surface,

Looking up to an eyeful of widening moon.

My first sigh was a lungful of water, my first

Word a kiss goodbye to the sorrowed sea.

My first breath was a cloud of paling air.

Yes: it was the moonlight, brought me there.

 

 

The European refugee crisis hasn’t disappeared. It is estimated that last year three thousand forced migrants drowned in the Mediterranean, crossing in the hope of landing to our safe, uncaring shores. The only generosity they will see, is what the water offers them.