5 years ago today I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Many hospital visits and a global pandemic later, a massive thanks to all those who helped me survive. #NHS @scarahnellis
The day we found the muddy puddle.
Your wellies dancing
under a silent sky,
the imprint of a hawk
the honeysuckle in the hedge.
Your feet so much smaller
than mine, and no way to keep
those blurred boots beside each other.
Bone fossils, the ridges of where
we once had been,
you already tearing on ahead.
In the hollow of this secret stream
where the water is as thin
as skin dappled by lips.
A curled stone skipping
into shadows. The absence
of breath, this silence
we have scooped into our hands,
how the years have poured
through our fingers.
She was a woman in water
collecting sweet wrappers.
Her hair the long sobs
of a drunk wandering home
in the small hours. Lost kisses
carved into her eyes. The floozy
in the jacuzzi, the whore
in the sewer. You had to
know her to make that rhyme.
None of those grey men in wigs
were so abused and slurred.
They stood around in solemn silence,
their crimes forgotten,
but she was closer to the streets,
the rebel songs my grandmother whistled
even when the words were banned.
They replaced her with a giant needle
pointing up to the future.
Sharp, unforgiving, uncomplicated.
Not a place where question marks
congregated but a story moved on.
What remains, what is removed.
The sheep cry in the distant fields
is full of leaves rustling
their secret summer song
as the birds celebrate June
with its sudden wearing of fox gloves.
Silk ballroom bees waltz in and out
to the hum of a lawnmower somewhere.
The breeze shimmering over the stream
is the calligraphy of this concerto
by a composer whose name
we have forgotten
in our rush to be silent shopping.
These spaces are breathing
balloons of clouds, a wisp
of a path leading up and up
towards a glass heaven.
A single note struck against the rim
of the universe where we are all
falling petals wishing for light.
The rain is a storm of caged birds,
the clipped wings of a body
stripped of its inner sanctum.
The muscle torn and stretched,
back to front. The lungs
with their waves of fear,
the heart galloping.
This ringing, rushing in my head.
My blood holding the secret
to exhaustion. A battle
I glimpse in the early hours
when the wind whips through
my ribs and I am clinging
to the mast. A shredded flag,
defiant fluttering in my bones.
I am not the captain of this vessel,
I am a stowaway hidden
in the hold of sickness.
But I see my face reflected
in fresh water and my eyes
are scratched glass,
the patterns flying free.
The shoppers wear masks.
You say it’s as if everyone
has spent the lockdown
partying late into the night,
only now emerging
in sunlight. Blinking,
by all the sudden noise.
The traffic, the clouds.
A barge passing slowly
through an open lock.
You shout with sudden nostalgia
for streets we have not seen
in months. We eat our picnic
in the park watching topless boys
perform on their scooters,
a dog playing with a fallen
tree branch. You turn your bike
down a path we’ve never
noticed before. The dark dapple
of woods by the canal whisper
this is what it is to fall back
in love with the world,
to be held in the soft flow of water.