These nights come in
with a clap of cool storm’s drizzled breath
applause of rain
lamps that hold our shadows in;
finally the children sleep.
I comb the house
listen to the pipes whinny
cars shush the tarmac.
Crumbs stick to the soles of my feet
and scratch the floor like a catch in the throat.
He coughs. It’s nothing. Coughs again.
And then the teeming
choking breath, the ‘I can’t talk, mum.’ husk
‘my mouth won’t breathe.’
I’m by him, rubber seals his mouth
and together we count four breaths.
Then four again
And it is over.
His child’s body splits mine open.
This boy who takes breath
and fills our house with it.
The pillow holds his head, now
touch him gently, sleep
The mo-poke owl
calls all the loneliness away
the house settles further to the ground.
so count these atoms
that make this table, this hand, this chocolate bird
that chatters and chatters
perched on the silver wrinkled bars.
Chocolate bird that chatters and chatters
There was a rap at the window next to the blackboard
and in they swarmed, two of them
faces blackened, a sack shouldered.
Children leapt from the perfect circle on the floor
shrieks and scampers away from these invaders
who fixed us with their blinking eyes, white rimmed
and to each of us
they told the stories of ourselves.
My tall friend was ‘forgetful’
– but it’s me who can’t
recall my own story
memory’s cloth closes over
the way time muzzles thought
dents and fingers
the smoothness of it.
But then, the youngest of us
whose curled head was lost among our shoulders
put out a hand
pushed aside the bristles of sticks
and claimed his bag
Did I tell you how afraid I had been?
body so complete
And from which of us?
But each evening she thinks of me
this bird with her beak
salt and old earth
earth and sand
she flies west to me
and she rubs me raw.
(With thanks to S.W and something her mother says.)