At four, a shot of birds breaking the night’s
shell. At five, your nose lifts to the gold-glint
behind the curtain; a chorus of dust
above sways in and out of existence.
The morning still fresh in the craters left
by the fox’s paw. Trade an exhaled breath
for daylight hiding in fabrics, for prints
of trees, their shadows amok on the sheets.
Can a roof cave with the weight of shifting
birds, they too bereft of touch? Imagine
their figures, neat as aligned archways
bleached verdant in the eight o’clock sun.
Could you bear to place a hand on the heat
of a shoulder doused in feather? Would you
carry my elongated bones, the core
of me scattering soot and salt to my
new chromosomes? Gather the afternoon:
soothe the feeling of a bolt through half-sleep,
the feeling of a room you have just left.
Ease my wing, steady my beak to the sky:
the quills on my back draft a star map,
our bodies racing for a canopy
beyond the tile and leaves and dissolving
carmine sky. I know the feeling of eyes
pressed shut against my back when we skim close
to oceans, the core of you scattering
to one before, behind, but never this –
reluctant to our reflection, glossy
in that strange water. Look, take this ancient
warning when old tempting doors swing open:
do not match the course of the sun and run.
I bargain with the baby monitor
to guarantee my measure of silence.
Built with no beat in the heart, built so brazen,
folding a Friday into a suitcase
and nightmare. A berry in the lung,
stinging soft, bursting for a waking ear.
Slide the padlock open, stream through bricked,
arched snickelways, tender as hooks through meat.
I then place my fingers in your hand, small
as keys and fine as a cat’s incisor;
leak my form like oil over your bed.
No night in that fur, but tarmac; the deep
lead paint hidden in the meal of winter.
Grown from masonry, grown with an open
jaw: a place for a promise, a place numbed,
knocked and smithed for your sharpened tongue – your cry.
But when I come from that feather-green dark,
allow me some warmth, a forgiving prayer –
as the day revokes its nebulous twin
with the morning knell, think of me like lambs,
in that this shepherd will fleece and kill them.
The Curiosities of Grief: An Exhibition
Be softer here: it comes, grass-cool, unlocked
when the intimacy of necessity demands.
Its keys are lint from pockets dug under nails
during the eulogy; or hair, snipped and wrapped,
kept in an envelope creased under the pillow
of the lover left sleeping. You’re offered tea,
perhaps, to distract from the scalding walls
on which, pinned, you’ll find the curiosities.
It rises from the soft flesh of the garden:
a small, sudden universe. Sometime after
the condolences pile thin like glass on the mat;
sometime before the memory shrinks
to a cracked seed. This building felt your need,
your weight, the change in pace when you
were lifted from the bed to the pooling red of the door.
Enter slowly, no whispers will be heard. Here:
an umbilical peg, powder-blue and warmer still
than a late-June sky. And then, bed sheets, grown
thick with arterial blood, rising
to a bleached, bruised smudge: reaching,
like bubbles from a sinking man. Marvel
at how small the bell jar is that captured a slumbering
starless dark. Take note of the empty fingers, the flint,
the car still heavy from the lake.
Don’t be dissuaded, smaller pities will too ensure admission –
a watch that smashed and became the scree within the wrist
from which it wandered. The fae’s shadow you traded
for a safer, yet lonelier, saunter home. The corner
of the husband’s letter; the struck match that lit the hob.
Be warned here: you too will add quiet sobrieties,
lit by nothing but the lightbulb-burn from your bones.
Olivia Hodgson completed her MA in Creative Writing at Birmingham City University where she won The Mercian Prize for Poetry. She was shortlisted for the Wolverhampton Literature Festival Poetry Prize 2021 and was included in Secret Chords: The Best of The Folklore Prize anthology. Her poetry and short fiction have been published in The Coffin Bell, Dreich (forthcoming), The Honest Ulsterman, Littoral Press Magazine, The Lyrical Aye, Strix and Wild Court. Her first collection of poetry, The Calls, is forthcoming from Blue Diode Press.
photo by Ömürden Cengiz (via unsplash)