The Song: Hour 24

There is music in the deep;
water running rich with phrase and tune,
carries notes flickering, silver-slick, like passing fish
drawing me with their song.
Snaring me in the watery warp and weft.
Singing me under. Drawing me down.
Pulling me, with lowering notes below.
Winding me close with chorded fronds
drawn hard and then pulled tight.

To listen is to falter and to fall beneath that liquid sound.
And where you stand, she said, you will always hear the song.

Where we stand, we will always hear the song.

Ghosts: Hour 23

1. Strange things bring your ghosts to me;
an early darkness. Gales.
The quiet touch of a remembered object.
The painful emptiness of silence.
I walk the yard – the fields less frequently now –
but I am adept; I know to watch and wait.

2. On a late summer’s night they come;
three small children clustering on the road
like berries ripened and fresh fallen loose
tumbling with shouted words and laughter.
At night, in the room they share,
folded and tucked in tight,
summer light pools at the foot of each small bed
and the soft mist promises a golden day to come.

3. My turning gaze brings more;
three small girls sitting on a cold, old wall
watching the road above
hearing a distant gate close,
then waiting the length of a breath
for a small spry figure to step out from the field,
stick in his hand, walking back down to the farm.

4. I watch you all, even in the moment there,
knowing I am saving you for the future
when I will create you from memory and nothing more.

5. Stepping down from the flat heat of the kitchen,
to concrete steps cool and hard and grey
I move down into the scullery
to watch her moving the sink to the cooker.
Washing. Cooking. Busy with her day.
I see her small, slight shoulders even then,
her narrow back; the flat shoes – laced for comfort –
and I love her at her work.

6. It is still good to remember now.
Though sometimes bitter. Often sad.
My memory of happiness does not always make me happy now
but I will walk these places still
and I will wait for the ghosts to find me.

If I am lucky, they will come.

The Reading Child: Hour 22

She climbs the books like mountains –
picking her way through phrases
as she would a rugged path –
stepping up and over sentences –
as she makes her careful way.
Now and again she pauses to examine
a word – lifting it into the sun
to watch it shine.
She tucks it carefully into her pocket –
still warm against her skin –
to keep her company
on her gradual ascent.

Walking down the road with a cat: Hour 21

First, attempt your exit from the house.
Leave on a early spring afternoon –
quietly now – no need to make a fuss.
Press your door closed carefully;
no heavy snick of a lock snapped shut.
This is easing into silence – gradual and soft.

Step out into the road to find a cat waiting for you there.

Understand, then, quite quickly that there’s a knack
to walking with these fiendish beasts.
This young cat ripples in happy darkness at my feet.
First, he walks beside me,
stretching our joint shadow along the path we’re going to take.
Then he doubles back – runs gleefully towards me –
and I am forced to step above him or beside him
so we do not fall.
Often, he will turn and lift his head to mine,
talking to me before racing on ahead
on large, soft, dark paws that seem to lift him from the ground
so he is bouncing and rippling ebony all at once
and is the colour, shape and movement of a creature
other than what he is.
But he is very real. A young and vibrant animal
glossy and masculine – dark eyes, dark whiskers –
so confident in his movements (and on checking with me)
that there comes a moment when I am unsure
as to whether he is following me or I him.
This young dark happy cat threads his way and his shadow
between my feet.
It has been a long winter but now
the dry, clear road lies ahead of me
and I am ready for some space.
My stick is with me – hitting the road like an extra limb –
but in a matter of seconds there is a small purr
and a sleek black figure swerves in near me
as though my shadow is reconnecting with my feet
and he is there.
So we walk down the road together.
It is as much a quiet celebration of the day as anything else
and he is company and he is life and he is love.

(For Rabbit – the cat in question)

If: Hour 20

Using the word ‘mornings’ from The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (by TS Eliot) as a prompt.

If my father could step
into these precious mornings –
closing my grief so carefully
and so completely
behind him like a gate;
to stand here, quietly,
at the farm with me,

I would draw him close,
talking of harvests and crop-filled sheds,
of animals fed for the evening,
sharing my memory of a man climbing with ease
above the raised bars in the byre
while his small daughters
shrieked in delight;
I would tell him of my quiet love, too,
in our final long, slow days.
And of his fingers stroking mine
– much smaller then, cupped safely in his palm –
as we sat together those quiet Sunday mornings
in the family pew.

The Height of It: Hour 19

It is their family ritual for the year.
Balanced against the wall, each one – eyes bright,
faces straight ahead, heads high –
giggling at the soft pressure of the pen
as their mother marks their gradual rise through childhood.
Each year, her brother’s growth an aspiration;
the height she wants to be.
Later a man will press her up against that wall,
his thumb digging – bright, sharp, accurate –
into the fleshy hollow below her jaw,
pressing against her larynx.
And she will no longer wish to be that height –
the height that lifts her level with his anger,
feeling the prickle of his sour-breathed fury hot against her skin.
His thumb is all jagged pain now, pressing deep
into the softness of her windpipe
and when she gasps the once, she cannot gasp again.
She is little more than a fierce, low gasp of fear;
her rib cage emptied and compressed
into unforgiving bricks
as her body is driven up into the wall.

Nothing to measure here.

Wish: Hour 18

Tonight
wishes fill the sky like stars
while we, the dreamers,
stand between the planets
and the soil.
I step into the summer fields.
Fall to my knees.
Let nature take its way.

Isthmus: Hour 17

She stands close to the edge, looking out to sea.
Her need for him as sharply fresh on her tongue
as salt in the air. She feels it in the pulsing
movement like a heartbeat at her feet
or of a body breathing out and breathing in.

There is such an emptiness between them now;
a distance far beyond the dearth of tide.
She is helpless in the face of such a fear.
Searching to connect, to speak, to know;
yet childlike at this growing sense of loss.

She will build language from the stones she stands upon;
a syntax of herself, word by single word, moving out towards him,
these moments of her need washed pure and clear,
telling him of her longing – her desire –
each single step a benediction and a prayer.

The Painting of a Country Sky: Hour 16

I am not needed here to make this beautiful.
This summer day now moving through the softest wash
of cloud into the dearth of evening has no need of me.
I stand, regardless, watching time fall away
while the sun gathers the hours into the fading dusk;
tucking them into a soft horizon that has become
a seamless transition between the day that has been
and the night that is to come.

Seeds (The End): Hour 15

The farm was never silent; daybreak
found my father busy in the byres, buckets in his hands.
Pigs grumbled into the morning, cattle
shifted, restless, in their pens.
We knew the sound of each tractor starting up
and moving through the yard. Cars coming
to the house brought cattle dealers, men
from the grain mills, the breadman on a Wednesday,
visits from family. Sometimes – when necessary –
a visit from the vet. The traveller who sold
my mother household goods. The minister twice a year
(or less if the dog was in the yard).

And now they hang, those precious sounds,
such delicate moments, suspended on the edge of loss,
as fragile as the heavy-seeded grasses midsummer-full.
For when the wind rises on a fresh cool day,
those grasses are drawn up into the breeze;
and all the precious seeds are scattered now.

One by one, sounds echo through the empty farm
and then, like seeds so delicate beyond our grasp,
are gone.

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