Always such a promise, a yes to life:
Sun’s clear face open with warmth,
her hands bringing gold out
of black ground to kindle the shadows
left lying around under thin hedges
when Old Night stalked away.
A guinea morning.
Warm coin in cold pockets
and daffodils worth their weight
for all the singing gold they do,
taking up their places in hearts and borders
like blackbirds perched on twigs,
yellow mouths trumpeting the sun;
a sudden lightening of the spirit,
an old coat slipping to the floor.
Would you be St Francis? Be still long enough
to let birds alight along your shoulders, open arms?
They are as slight as kisses and as patient.
Close in the chestnuts, gold epaulettes
flash under green, chaffinches huff red, pause
as you reach up awkwardly against the bitter wind
and scatter seeds across the makeshift board
beneath the kitchen window. I’m washing cups again,
watching your ritual of morning gifts.
Something in you that’s good and beautiful
makes your gestures sacred: offering and prayer.
Beyond gentleness, attending to small hungers,
you are binding the bright song-book through
this sharp March garden of somber hedges
and shut windflowers, into summer dawns
when we will wake too early and find ourselves
afloat like angels in the hour of the great half-dark,
a cathedral of music arching around us
in leaves of air and joy –
the hour when the Herald
calls the soul to love unreservedly, climbing up high,
opening the heart to this note and this – each song
a vivid wing – coral, cyan – a prism saved for the Sun
to flood rapture through every life, every beginning.
They are always coming and we never know them,
the great dark angels with wings as heavy
and cold as winter midnight studded with stars,
with their breastplates of moon. This angel
came to the attic skylight – the house so settled,
quiet – one moment its broad radiant face
was still beyond, gazing in, as if this did not
have to be the place, as if there could be
somewhere else to go – but it dipped its head down,
folded its huge black wings close like a diving bird
falling between worlds, came on through the glass,
entering the tall house, coming slowly
down dusty landings and worn stairs
on silent burning feet, slowly descending
to the afternoon kitchen where the mother played
with the boy and the baby, sang to the radio
as the angel came towards her, glittering, pacing
slowly forward, its long beautiful hands reaching out
to take the boy, lifting him smoothly away from
his breath, his bread, his green cat and solar drawings.
Slow with its purpose and burden the angel turned,
retraced its fiery steps, leaving a haze of dark
shining on everything and the space
where the child had lived. And even though
the mother spun round so fast her blonde hair
stung her eyes, even though she leaped
and flung her arms out blindly – she did not see
the angel come and go, ascending the stairs
with her own boy held tenderly against its breast.
I cannot look at the mother. Nor at the shocked baby
who may have seen something. I don’t know.
I am looking at the angel and not understanding.
Is it that the boy’s time had been a mistake,
an accidental falling from Heaven
which had to be mended so some innate order
of things could continue? Or was it that his purpose
was two years long, no more, all the resonance
of his life going on forever in his absence, altering
souls, changing futures: a terrible, necessary gift?
And sometimes all I can do
is skate over my own surface
reflections frozen in ice
And sometimes my bones are runes
scattered in ocean’s merciless tide
and I am deciphered by water
I fly so fast through the midnight forest
that my hair writes fine silver prayer flags
in the snatching hawthorns
and I am naked. So naked.
And there are times when all I see is grey
and I have no memory of pearl or oyster. Then
only the mist will speak to me
Sometimes there is no running in me
there is no singing in me
there is no loving in me
and I am less than a leaf
less than a leaf’s winter lace
so close am I to frost’s roaring
and sucking, frost’s cold mouth opening.
And in these times, I must lie so.
Let Time enfold me
into the journey.
Only, let me trust then
to Blackbird waking the Sun.