I shall present it to you without words,
like something you’ve forgotten you’d mislaid,
returned as a gift, cupped in my hands.
I can’t wrap it, but here it is, balanced
with gems inside; see how the light’s reflected
in rainbows – if I blow it will float away
and when it bursts you’ll fill the room, dismayed
by how you touch us all, me at the way
you have of leaving when we wanted you to stay.
i.m. Mary MacRae
Five or six of us here at the familiar purple door
these afternoons we spend beneath red weather
with our lines and voices as the genuine thing
builds unremarked beyond the diamond panes
till our turning back in the familiar porch
our repeated goodbyes our uncertain bunching
that coheres and delays till one breaks loose
and we all disperse – but today there is a drop
on the back of a hand on someone else’s cheek
and though we fiddle with keys and fidget
in trainers and jeans we are an old chorus
for one moment only crying the single syllable
the short sound of rain – because we are weary
of weeks of drought of working parched soil
but now itís come and we can see it falling
raindrops shrilling their high-pitched release
from interlaced shadows the skirts of clouds
and what none knows till we live another year
is that one here – despite our shrewd eyes
on endings and beginnings – will face last things
like a vanishing of doves into dark thunderheads
of air and grief come these later afternoons
just four or five of us now rehearsing her words
catching the noise of rain before the rain arrives
(poem published in Brittle Star in earlier version)
Your sure steps, that carried you
so widely, brought you at last
Honed words showed us how paint glows,
light laps at the edge of marshes,
a feather falls.
The brighter the tools shone, the more
you ached to use them, as your numbered steps
Wherever your foot has fallen
there is poetry, unspoken,
While Markie shunned light and human company,
scrabbled his bulk under the bath in fright,
took to drinking from the toilet bowl, Kitty
would fend off thistledown, tricks of the light.
Years later, I’d catch them too – was it wind,
ghost of a tail I could have sworn shot by?
No – a slippage of time, habit of mind,
lunar spots in the corner of my eye.
Low-lying shrubs, shade-loving plants, dry beds
in the valley below and a dull quiet lane
whose shade I hug now draw me downwards,
down to the floorboard dark where illness, pain,
flatten their fur and even sun freaks find
the dark side of the moon is just as kind.
2nd August 2009
I walked along a coastal path and glanced out
at the sea –
then looked away, preferring
not to notice than to see and be unable –
But there – not further than an outstretched arm – a bird –
I couldn’t tell you what it was –
and down the path towards me came a woman, who –
had she been Mary –
would have brought with her the word
effortless as flight –
and I had reason to look up and make some sense
as the bird – perhaps a gannet –
aimed its body at the sea.
Dusty brown or lucent
white breasting high cliffs
perhaps a flash of blue
the eye’s gleam caught
recorded, given voice.
Between the reading
and the comments
we wait for your voice
in silence we miss you
as birds do.
In your hand, the coffee cup. In your hand, the still moment.
Your eye holding the prospect of distance up close, your eye
skirting each flit and shade and all the birds of our chat
and all the spaces between.
In your hand, the pen. In your hand, the crusty bread.
Our chat carries the light of day across the room, our chat
scatters notes, and we laugh and drink and almost forget to say
what we’d intended.
In your hand, the book. In your hand, the husband’s hand.
Your eye holding the focus of now, your eye seeing all
of its wild, lined face and whispered pasts, and we hold
our breath and our words.
In a clearing
In the birchdark wood
A stag waits for you
Bathed in moonglow
The cave of a hundred mouths
Sings as you enter
Robed in samite
Bearing a golden bough
It’ Sunday, middle morning and the air
is full of silences. Next door the boy
has given up his usual game of shout
and on the other side the grown up girl
has turned the music off. There’ll be no hour
of wailed-out song to make me smile today.
Even the lone plane that, earlier,
hummed distantly in evidence that life
is moving swiftly on has passed the point
of sound. Outside, the leaves are glistening
dancing silently. Why, brisk as it is,
is there no hearing the wind? Every noise,
it seems, has taken it in mind to stop.
And Mary comes, and sits awhile, and talks.
for Mary MacRae
Mary, I’m shocked at how clearly
your voice sounds in my mind,
the soft syllables unfolding
details, the subtlest of lights,
a place, all the while
disclosing such tenderness.
Death is a common word –
so like earth, of earth,
just that little shoot ‘r’ unfurling
to show we were here;
and in between
the nothing and the unknown
as you were aware:
the delicate harebell
wired into the wind,
the ice needle threading the sun,
the cloth of blue sky
covering endless darkness.
So we concentrate
on that needle, stitch
till there’s nothing left
but the busy fingers of thrift
and the blackened shape
of a kittiwake
homing over the waves,
beyond the lighthouse
on Lundy Island
resting, not resting,
in the changing sea.