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From Split World: 1990-2005 (Bloodaxe Books, 2005). Poems on the Underground, Series 23. 1994.
I always felt you were too good for me;
You slayed my nightmare dragons lightly.
When you did not turn to gaze on me,
I told myself you were Orpheus showing self-restraint,
Yet still it hurt, for I wanted you to want me stupidly.
I would gladly have fallen into Hell
For a hungry glance off you.
But I was nothing, easily injured and unworthy,
So I created my own mythology, to be your equal.
Fairy-tales grew in dark forests on my tongue,
And you listened enchanted
As I encrusted myself with rubies and bravery.
It was easy, I am good at telling stories...
I told you I could call up storms of butterflies and violets.
I told you twelve princes were pursuing me,
and performing dangerous tasks to win my hand.
I told you I rose from death seven times and, laughing,
flicked the gold flames of my hair into the faces of my killers.
I told you I loved you enough to bear crows pecking my eyes,
And enough to stick an asp in my bra.
I slayed your love easily; a clumsy, mortal accident.
You cowered at my majesty,
The thought of those ragged bodies lapping over my rocks.
Ironic, when my magic is clearly not as potent as yours.
My stories convinced you like the words of a prophet.
You say you are not perfect like I think you are.
You say I am angel-pure and your hands would tear my wings.
You say you do not deserve oceans of white roses.
You say you do not deserve rooms full of sunbeams -
They blind you, as thorns do - I am too much brightness.
And besides, if you gave me the kiss, the kiss of true love,
It would not awaken me, and no-one would change shape.
You would be an anti-climax.
You would disappoint.
It is my own fault, I was my own Genesis.
Now I must pay a price greater than to always hold the sky up.
I must watch you retreat from me, dropping no crumb trail;
Watch you leave me without thread in this labyrinth I made.
I tell you that I lied, but you no longer believe me.
I will always be a giddy goddess to you;
A mermaid longing for legs that will only bring varicose veins,
When she should be plucking pearls out of the sea-bed.
I shout: “No! I’m only a stupid, stupid girl.
I love you for your flaws, they are what make you perfect.”
You shake your head.
You tell me that in every myth there is a grain of truth.
(in memory of Joey Pierce/Harwood)
The blur of sky and sea
this white grey morning
before the day burns
moves into blue
the sweet butter scent of gorse
the sweet scent of you
dear daughter ghost in my head
the mudflats and saltings shine
as the children run by
along marsh edge and the high dyke bank
egret and oystercatcher dunlin and sandpiper
In the distance a train passes
where a short neat man
pushes a refreshment trolley
his clean white shirt immaculately ironed
his black waistcoat just right
the quiet dignity of him
as he passes through the hours
You’d know this the particulars
were you here
held in the wide sky arc
the children running on the dyke bank
absorbed in this world
be eating this tarte tatin
than be her
with her Audrey Tatou eyes that might
crinkle into tears or smiles
but don't quite, as she stares
intense, almost wordless
shuffling on his chair, out-gazed,
forced by embarrassment
into broken sentences
in this encounter on the edge of being
the end or perhaps the start of something –
the station buffet greasy
with hundreds of past
that for this woman, who's been here before,
for this man,
reduce to a worn half dozen possible
highs, troughs, bunglings of love,
inescapable scripts of themselves
that surely, though, could be a rewrite this time
as, now, he rests his hand on the table,
as she strokes it lightly, slowly,
as his feet, invisible to her,
say it all.
I really would.