Three sullen steps
ahead you saw him first.
And though you deigned
to give a branch by branch
account of where he hid
I couldn’t get my eye in
till he moved, low willow
to low willow. Later I
thought even you
could never dim
the flare of him
that swift, bright nib
in my winter head.
He flew, his breast
the colour of desire
but perching, turned
and ice extinguished fire.
after a picture by Paula Rego
Three bags full I ordered.
Got the number from the Yellow Pages –
‘Black Sheep Enterprises’. He sounded
ever so nice on the phone.
When could he deliver? I said
the afternoon’d be fine.
Well I thought it was the devil:
black horns coiled like ammonites.
But there was something about him.
I stashed the wool away right quick,
let my red face cool.
And now my fingers work
a living fleece, one cloven foot
lost in the folds of my full skirt.
My little one is coming down the lane.
His days of nursery rhymes are numbered.
The bridge is seventy this year. As a small boy
you stood on the bank at the Gateshead side –
were sure the bits begun at either end
would fail to meet. You tell me this
as we sit in a quayside cafe over toast.
We giggle as you scrape another butter wrapper clean
when one would do – knowing what Mum would say.
The café is right underneath the bridge.
You’ve pointed out the office where you worked
in ’51 – before I met your mother. It’s all
glass and flashness now, but nostalgia
doesn’t tarnish in your case. You are as thrilled
by the new as you are to show me the armada anchor
pinned to the wall near the tucked-away almshouses
or chance upon the corner where you parked your Riley.
Somewhere behind you is another bridge
which spans a river very far from here. You were
so nearly a statistic – they say each sleeper
claimed at least one life.
Squinting into the sun
we head back to the car park, curb the urge
to spit at any Nissans (half in jest).
As I glance across the tarmac to the river,
an ugly vessel trails a wake of gold.
Your kiss on the top of my head
is the moon in daylight
pale token of small hours
when the air turned blue
with your sweet expletives –
currency I will spend again
and again in your absence
to bankrupt yet another
night of sleep.