Press this shell to your ear
I met him on a northern winter shore, my silkie boy,
his slippery kiss, it blanched my swollen lips
with brine. By early spring, my skin was cracked
and wafer flakes broke off as he stroked
the blisters on my upturned face.
Such brittle clumps dropped each time
he ran his fingers through my once fine hair,
that even he could see that I was sick
with missing salt-free streams and meadow dew.
So he and I drove south through hedgerows,
green with fresh growth, flushed with budding.
All the way he kept up such a sea pup keening,
I had to toss a mermaid’s purse for him to chew,
clamp a cowrie to his ear to make him sleep.
I dug a pond deep in my orchard where each pink dawn
he stripped down to his oily grey hide,
lay mournful in his landlocked pit of mud.
We nailed a tidal clock to the ceiling above our bed
to mark the highs and lows, until the day
I woke up in a sweet dry bed and found the cowrie
on his pillow, so that now and then, on a stormy night,
or a spring tide, I still can share his distant rushing joy.
My Limping Goddess
The day I had my mother to myself
she took me on a spree,
she bought us both new shoes,
and let me choose our treat,
St Pauls, to round the day off nicely.
The Paternoster pigeons
scattered as she led the way.
Inside I focussed on her kitten heels
which sparked the ancient steps.
Where skin met crimson suede
I saw a vivid blister forming.
Yet with a conjuror’s smile she pulled me up
a final flight into the sacred upturned space.
From the far side of the void,
the words she whispered around those walls,
were just for me.
My Father’s Beard
Because today my hand shakes
less than his, I am to shave my father.
So squeezed between bath and basin,
cupping awkward chin I scrape
at a beard grown wild and strange,
as long as the days since she died.
Just once he flinches and swears.
Now squeezed against a cabinet, jammed
with drugs and sharps still to be got rid of,
I work the other side, recalling how
I would recoil from his embrace and jerk away
a tender cheek, avoid a graze. I run
a hand against the grain. “That’s better,”
we both say, as I rinse away the evidence.