She remembers up-and-down Devon lanes,
the farm collie that snapped at their wheels
as they cycled past steep banks of primroses,
fathoms of bluebells, snowdrifts of ransoms,
the sea-green bottles tinged with lustre they found
in a midden, crusted with dregs of liniment;
remedies for chilblains, coughs and aching bones.
Some stoppered with sunlight sit on her windowsill.
She remembers the pram chassis they used for trundling
the canoe to the canal, ducklings scooting like wind-up toys,
moorhens chugging among the reeds,
the dip and lift of their paddles, curl of green water,
how the canal slid like a snake through a hole in the hill;
a distant glimmer beckoning them in.
They never dared that blindfold mile, the cold drip,
drip of water, echoes splashing slippery walls,
how easy it looked, how he begged to go on.
She stands on the bank, looks at that far away glow,
thinks of his open-hearted, roller-coaster life; wonders
what dark places he paddles to reach the light.
We are separate, but we stand
on the same greening earth.
Around us life is busy, a song thrush
trickles shining drops, a crow
on the crown of a Monterey pine
rasps its black throat, a buzzard circles.
Hedges are white with blackthorn blossom,
celandine brighten the lanes, lambs grow strong.
City sounds are muffled, streets deserted.
Fingers send messages, smile greets smile on screen.
Fear prowls the tunnels of our dreams,
casts giant shadows on our bedroom walls,
but morning comes, we watch another sunrise
lighten the day, make a list of friends to ring.
In my mind I see her
take a strand of silk
a tuft of hair gleaned from the dog
dreaming on the rug
she makes a tiny insect
adds a hook like a strange curved limb
tapering to a point
I see her go through the heather
to where the river pours like glass
and specks of sunlight roam the quiet pools
she stands thigh deep
rod arching, line
flickering like the tongue of a snake
the fly lands, kisses the water
flicks up, settles again upstream
she feels the tug, eases the line
lets it run, reels in, drawing them together
easing and pulling till the game is won
she lifts the fish, takes out the hook
slips it in the stream again
a flash of silver and it’s gone.
Back in the world of books
she leans on the lectern, pencil poised
ties wisps of thought
into a question
lands it lightly among us
and we take it, run with it
while she concedes, then slowly draws us in
until the argument is won
she slips us free.
A hand-span measure where time dissolves
in a turquoise sea.
A cell where your mind squeezes through bars,
spirals the thermals.
Here ideas hatch like midges in sunlight.
Wind indifferent to everything but itself
will temper you, silence will free you from explanations
and excuses. The chill of rippled sand
will teach your naked feet to walk with tenderness
across the thin-skinned earth.
This place is a heart-squeeze of finding and losing
where you will walk the machair,
try to snare a singing bird, cage it and learn its song,
where you must set it free.