Pandemic

I am back in that box marked phobia of hospitals.

My lungs stripped of tinned cans of milk.

There is a preacher with a gun in Florida

who refuses to stop praying with his followers

flocked together in some weird cultish suicide pact

with the devil of the detail as the cops wonder

whether shooting is contagious.

We are standing on the edge of our lives

and the distances are too great and yet

not far enough. I thought I had escaped

these scars but every night I dream

you are kissing me. The curtains have closed

and the show cannot go on. The pain sneaks

back stage and questions where there will be

money in the bank, a world to return to.

My skin fragile as the shell of an egg.

The birds sing louder now we have

fallen silent. I am listening to the music

of apple blossom in a breeze sharper

than surgical knives. I am staying still,

camouflaged from oxygen, waiting

for the wolf to pass our door.

Brilliant

This morning the light is rich gold

catching the coat of a robin red breast,

fat and proud, as he darts from branch

to branch. A quivering arrow

risking a quick shot at the road

and back. Behind a shadow

of brown wings, less flashy,

with a twig in her mouth

but still vibrating with the energy

of spring and nests to be built.

Afraid

The trees are creaking.

The wind in the door as if

the falcons circling over our heads

know that the white rags waving

in the fields are not scarecrows

but the ghosts of empty city streets

where even the dog walkers

no longer nod hello.

You are struck with pain

in your fingers, legs, stomach.

You say your brain is on fire

as the old helplessness engulfs us.

I wrap you in my arms

as you beg for silence.

Downstairs there is only red wine

and denial. The house breathes fear

but at least you are sleeping.

The perfect bow of your lips,

the curve of your eyebrow.

I would sacrifice the sky itself

to protect you. These are the prayers

of the small hours when the storm

threatens hospitals and I am

suddenly scared of where this is going.

Burnt

Out in the field on the hill,

they have lit a fire from the trees

they’ve spent all day chopping down.

The buzz of the chainsaw slicing

through a silence that is deeper now

the traffic is muted to the odd passing truck.

The orange flames lick at a brilliant blue sky

as the smoke snakes its way over the houses.

Maybe they need to keep busy,

maybe they need the work.

But watching from my window,

I can’t help feeling the world

is fragile enough. Do we need

to cut into the arms of the defenceless?

Why not instead plant the homesick seed

deep in the forests of our mind?

So that when we return to ourselves,

our green mouths no longer speak of ash.

Pooh Sticks

We climb through a secret house

of wood logs, ivy twisting

from the open mouth roof,

the sun caught in the intricacies

of a spider web. You want to know

that we’ve never been here before,

you want to know that we aren’t lost.

We follow the winding compass

of the stream, fingers held to the wind.

We race small sticks under a tunnel bridge.

Yours and mine catch each other

in a swirl, entwine as they navigate

the rapids of rocks. Shoot forward

into clear water, no longer competing,

but wrapped tight together.

Our small ship heading for the open sea.

Come Home

You do not have to wear

these different voices,

the stranger on the telephone,

the shout over the wall.

Our house is fragments of rooms,

shattered glass from a falling lamp.

the light left on over night.

Outside has become a different country.

The white wonder painted thickly

across the hill as the early morning sun

signs its name along my tongue.

There will be no more tattoos.

The challenge of being broken

Into pieces, learning this new language

of isolation, how to navigate distance.

I set sail across the kitchen floor,

fearing the edge of translation.

There are such silences between us.

I want to write welcome in the window

even if the door is stripped naked,

closed until further notice.

Connecting

Between the whirr of the lawnmower

and at the required distance, I am told

of heartbreak and grief. How this

horrible year is now a global pandemic.

How those who work every hour

God sends to keep their heads

above water are now sinking.

You dream of being able to go

to school. Playing with your best friend.

We zoom through kite flying

as the sky is filled with boxed children.

Strings of supernovas, words in the wind.

The Ride

We are building roller coasters

in the garden, the swoop

of sharks around corners

as the small people throw

their arms up and scream.

There are dolphins swimming

in the canals of Venice.

Do they sing of red dwarfs

twisting into shadows

of their own funerals?

Nobody saw this coming.

The sudden giving way

of the handrail,

the spinning off

into lava stars

and a soft morning

of melting frost.

The police can separate

groups of more than two.

The parks are locked.

The shelves are empty.

The hospitals don’t bear

thinking about.

You are cutting carrots

in the kitchen. We sit

at the wooden table

talking of time travel,

the turning of solar systems.

So shrunken

this home bound world.

So huge this love

in the tightness

of my heart.

Return

Last night you were suddenly burning again,

tipping your hands in the cool glass of water,

your cheeks flushed. This morning the air

is bright chill as frost glitters on the field,

patchwork crystals of a season

spun upside down. You say in your sleep

turn the light on, you don’t know

where anything is. We are sealed

in our topsy turvy houses, trapped

by television, the fear of contagion.

Should I mark an X on the front door?

The children are putting rainbows

in the window. The muntjac deer

are back. Two of them slowly munching

the grass by the slide. Their small ears

twitching in the sunlight. I have never

been so glad to see them. Gentle creatures

from a very different spring. Wild wanderers,

still free and roaming through my mind.

Sunday

We make it to the end of the garden

for the first time in a week.

Crisp mad hatter air in our lungs.

You stand in your dragon dressing gown

dreaming of the start of the universe.

The stream startles us

with its jabberwocky jewels.

We have gone through the looking glass.

Sirens in the distance. You hide deep

in the den of a secret passage

between gardens. White flowers

I wish I knew how to call by name.

My mother would have known

what their eye winking meant.

I wish I could post her this moment.

her grandson waving wonder

and the light catching the breath

of the hill. But she died

over twenty years ago now.

Strange how in this stillness

there is suddenly the whisper

of her white rabbit voice.

Always late, always there.

Forget-me-not roses

and the knave of hearts forgiven.

No other love can compare.