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The Abandoned Quarter                    Caret Mark

Journey                          Late Lunch

 

The Abandoned Quarter

 

The war is at the top of the hill

just up there

in that tree-lined suburb

at the edge of the town

its expensive flats abandoned

and the roadway empty

 

how tightly the rest of the city

draws away from it

you never hear it mentioned now

and nobody goes there

 

so why do I stop

turn and look towards it

my hands full of blue plastic bags

weighed down with groceries?

 

From under the tarmac

through cracks that are invisible

blue flames flicker

as pointed as holly leaves

        

and just out of sight

in the cover of the tree-trunks

bare-headed, fair-headed

his gun across his stomach

a soldier stands braced

        

The war’s coming closer

go home now quietly.

 

 

Mary Michaels

from Assassins, 2006, Sea Cow Press

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Caret Mark

 

Nailed to a post in the middle of the levels

 

STATUTORY NOTICE OF PLANNING APPEAL

four hundred and fifty houses, a road

and PUBLIC AND PRIVATE OPEN SPACES

 

against the waving heads of the new-grown cereal

 

º

 

square-towered church with outward leaning walls,

Norman, enlarged in the following centuries

 

pilgrim crosses behind the chancel arch

(faintly scratched lines plated over with glass)                

and a Latin invocation, narrowly incised

 

For the soul of my father who died at Agincourt

 

º

 

deckle-edged notelet - full of underlinings, exclamations, capitals -

among a box of postcards, Birthday cards, Get Well cards

 

letters of condolence, Thank you for the flowers

(depicting a pointed Gothic window with tracery)

 

bits of scrap paper with drafts of replies

scrawled over with caret marks, crosses and strike-throughs

 

º

 

in the dark of a bedroom, two hours before dawn

the smooth plastic case of a ticking alarm

 

reached out for and turned in one hand like a pebble.

 

 

Mary Michaels

from Caret Mark, 2008, Hearing Eye

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Journey

 

Some part of me wants to open the train door

 

I told him about the film where a character

opened the door and threw himself out

 

that was unnecessary, tactless, vicious

that was the nasty part of me

 

I didn’t know he was depressed

 

some depressed part of me

 

I was on my way to the wedding, the hairdressers

all my not-seen relatives, got up in black, shrinking and tiny

 

he opened the door and

 

it was some time before I told anyone

the train had gone miles farther on

 

would he be lying alongside the track?

 

we set up the search then

lots of false leads, wrong interventions

people in bright colours and struggles

 

he always used to say he had friends in the camp

and wanted to join them

 

we knew they were grey-white shadows  

 

yet here in a leather jacket life-sized, kindly

a man who says he’s come from there

will take us back

 

he knows my name

 

I don’t ask him what journey this is

 

some part of me won’t ask

goes willingly.

 

 

 

Mary Michaels

from The Shape of the Rock, 2003, Sea Cow Press

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Late Lunch

 

Two o’clock

 

 among the dull green tablecloths

 the tall waitress sits down to take her break

 with a cup of espresso

 

 slim pink sleeves in the dimness

 luminous

 her long dark hair fastened loosely at the neck

 in a loop of blue elastic

 one strand, as always, falling onto her face

 

 Eating at the other end of the café

 I sense in a mouthful of tomato and lettuce

 from the plate that she brought me

 something like a thread

 

 my tongue skilfully separates it out

 and my fingers discreetly pull between my lips

 a long dark hair

(unlikely to have come from

 the shaven-headed chef)

 

 I crumple it up in a paper serviette

 don’t mention it to anyone

 

 like having that softly falling lock in my mouth

 

say it was her hair.

 

 

Mary Michaels

from Assassins, 2006, Sea Cow Press

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