At our corner table we slid to the floor outrageous.
On the street we hugged goodbye, February sunshine
fell on our shoulders, yellow Road Salt containers,
lit mustard mannikins in shop windows.
I drove through Cheltenham missing big houses.
A small pet straining a lead my phone messaged
the death of a close friend, closer still to a friend close to me.
In florist buckets on the road branches cut from the gardens.
Mrs Dalloway arranged her window. White tablecloth.
Opened dying faster wider sulphurous palette petalled umber.
On Parabola Road two roof-top magpies bent close,
that attracted shimmer could make the other’s summer come.
Too Many Dogs
Too many dogs in my ancient Toyota,
all sensing the beach ahead. I park
illegally by the lifeboat station,
where men on the beach rehearse
mouth-to-mouth. I lean on the car in
my toadlike coat, yank open doors,
bony sacks of dogs flop out. I lose track
and count of my benign pack,
finger lick poo bags open. A dog’s life
is shorter than mine, and in their short time,
I own nothing, am a guardian practised at loss.
And when I get right all their names,
one dies and another arrives: love, lose
and love again. We walk corridors of sand:
the dunes lose so obviously, their gains surreptitious.
Driving off, the dogs stick their heads out
of windows; coats ruffling, taking in the breeze,
and on the last bend before home, they swap places.
Before I Write
October and craneflies squat in sinks
trail frail shadows on blank walls.
Three speculative Robins outside
and not one fighting. Songs of birds
left for Africa still sung by birds
left behind. Mid-afternoon feels like
being old must feel. House wall-trained,
withstanding frost, stands a hardy fruit
named ‘Amber Reach’. I should be
Edith Sitwell, hideous yet unashamed.
My illness is bad choices, lariats of starlings.
I need big predators back, dinosaurs,
to add edge and spice, to eat me.
I do not write how I feel:
‘One chimpanzee is no chimpanzee’.
That I write at all is the consolation.
Each envelope a slit of air, I yield, I succame,
I succumb to the stack’s papery exhalation.
I write but not of him or I at all,
frail letters stick to paper like swat flies:
‘Such lucky birds, such company,
not fazed by this influx of unseasonal snow’.
The Viking on his Honeymoon
The headlands smoke with forest fires.
Ash speckles loungers, sticks to flesh,
lands in iced drinks. The old fire’s
a black scar and a new fire puffs.
The Viking on his honeymoon circles
the bathers, jumps into the sea,
each time finding a different way,
belly flops or perfect dives, like water
rejoining water, bursting as butterfly
strokes back to the ladder.
On fire, the trees pop pine cones,
smokey mouths in hot mist.
His biceps flex rubbing his viking hair.
He is a marble relief, wrapped in a towel,
held at his waist by a knot, white when
pulled apart, where ash can’t land.
The flames, given nothing to consume,
go around the rocks, and the rocks
don’t burn, or scar, or heal, are
somewhere to leap from, or into.
Before night, the day was dusk
all day, dusk held along among
all the days. Low and high,
church bells rang slowly twice:
a long low note unsleeved from
a short high, and longer slowly faded.
Above my bed, a room-wide
shadow of a fly walking over
the lightbulb. Thoughts of (and within)
insomnia, and any I wake to.
I walked out under a Frost Moon,
in the beam of my torch I did not see,
nor did not want to see, too much,
too quickly. Not much moved
in the old cow pond other than
insects scissoring forwards.
Mud at the bottom like slumped furs
and fish on swollen apples.
Ignoring my torch, sheep grazed
short grass around perfect clumps of reeds:
many inedible herbs are invisible.
Too much truth I never wanted
or too much too quickly and if I had,
I feared me if I had. I rathered no truth,
and the moon on several trees.
I’m hooked on watching the debonair ferns
unfurling their tight croziers. A hot, humid,
permanent spring I had not predicted.
The cows flick their tails in clouds
of milky heliotrope. The warmth roots
down in days too light and too long.
Tendrils flower and fruit on my table,
the plants losing their sense of where
and when to stop. Nothing will be outside
the garden when everything is garden:
a tangled reverie. I’m in my hot-weather gear
all the time, I’m not bothered by wrong gases
exchanging around me, fixing ins wrong
places, growing nicely unpredictable.
The grey towers flower gold. I will get used
to great things, like a war in reverse:
metal and concrete, opening as usable substrates.
Wider opportunities for rich meadows.
I am the loose thin soil tiny hard-to-pick-out
flowers need, flamboyant lichens crust
on the rocks of my bones. My soft cool bed
is rose petals on coral sand. All at once
I flower, right up to and beyond the end.
© All text and images belong to Sean Swallow. All work is protected by copyright.