The day slips away like lace from round shoulders. A robin, invisible in the dusky haze, solemnly sings, his high notes throbbing in the air before they converge into a different abstraction. What is this urge, this strange attraction to my untimely demise; this temptation to cloak myself in smoke when I would rather soak up sunlight like a sponge, expanding as breath invading living lungs. It is unwise to invite the Lord of Death when there are different forces, different sources to embrace. Can I pray to the bees in the hive outside on that ancient white oak? They buzz and they thrive, dream of wild meadows and horses galloping elsewhere at a heart-stopping pace at a different time, a different place.
She remembers their descent into the heart of darkness.
The smell of the river Senegal, murky, once emerald
but now the tired colour of stagnant mud.
She remembers the days, the mosquitoes
sucking lazy, overheated blood,
the lush greens of the jungle
left and right, up and down, all around.
The jungle. The darkling jungle.
She remembers, most of all, half-shadows,
full-shadows, umbra, penumbra,
antumbra; she remembers living shadows
housing living creatures, black creatures,
their eyes aglow in the dark as embers,
as fiery opals, always ready to prowl, always
ready to devour under the milky, opalescent moon.
She is scared at night.
Frequently, she turns around to take his hand,
and he is there, and he is warm.
He only grows cold after he follows
the drumbeats into the forest,
deeper and deeper,
The slow descent is almost never noticeable.
In the morning, the brownish river resumes its lazy flow.
At day, she sees birds shriek and fly towards the sun.
African swallows, obsidian against the polished sky
and others, gay, kingfishers, bee-eaters, parrots
and parakeets, winged bodies adorned
with gemstones, green and turquoise, pink
and oscillating, harlequin whites.
She contemplates the birds, assessing her own feathers;
plain, ruffled, mundane.
She is no elegant flamingo, no inflamed firefinch.
She is a sparrow, black throated, with a hummingbird heart
fluttering against the obscure stain above her bony chest.
She remembers the Senegali birds.
She remembers, too, their meaning: the horror, the horror.
How she remembers.
Colour against blackwood,
blood still seeping fruitlessly into the penumbral zone.
There, in the halls of his palace the one-eyed is anxiously stroking his beard: When will you find your way home, dearest Muninn? Thought, where have you gone? What news do you bring this fine day, Huginn? Memory, where have you flown? Flight is the plight of the knowing: hold on to this goblet of mead. Watch Fingertips crinkling then smoothing, awaiting returns bitter-sweet. Outside, Midgard is barren and quiet disturbed only by Spring barely lifting her brows. Listen, unkind ravens screech riot: yet nothing’s out there but a murder of crows.
April is the cruelest month – rolling around bringing the not utterly surprising news that another year has passed, and that it is that time of the year again. Yes, that time. Poetry writing time.
In itself, a joyful occasion – what better way to celebrate spring than with poems of budding, growth, the first rays of a warming sun. I am writing this at a strange time, however, one that I am certain most of us are feeling the impact of. I have been watching spring arrive through the windows of my apartment. I have been observing the empty street where, normally and once the climate becomes milder, there are so many enjoying the change in weather, the feeling of liberty the new season inevitably brings along after the quiet solitude of winter.
There is a pronounced sense of absence in everything. A quiet that is bordering the uncanny. A feeling of isolation that reaches deep into the bones. I normally connect well to these emotions; for better or worse, the poetry I write is full of them. Yet, there is something in this particular feeling that stops me from reaching for the creative crutch. Something that bars me from escaping into the beautiful world of literature, the arts, and Nature, and be it only from a distance. I have yet to find a way to optimise my quarantine, and find myself utterly unwilling to try. This is to say: I am not prepared to venture into poetry writing month, but venture I will.
There is another, less lofty reason why I wish it were not that time of the year: I participated in NaPoWriMo twice. Each year I vow I will keep the momentum, and the poetry spilling on the page. For reasons I do not entirely comprehend, I do not seem to be able to live up to my own promise. It seems the moment I take a break, I stop altogether. Maybe it is time to face the music: I am a seasonal (and increasingly seasoned) poetess, with a seasonal, couch-potato muse who needs shaking up more than I am prepared to do on a regular basis. Maybe, that is not a bad thing: it is never a bad time to create, and as every year: I shall dip my toes.
After all, what better way to pass the time of lockdowns and isolation than writing poetry. Let’s take our flights of fancy to the realm of Imagination while we cannot dance on the streets as we would usually (not) do. Strange, cruel, and inevitably recurring poetry writing month: here we come!
Almost out of focus, the tall pine trees are dark against the curious cobalt of a night descending, not yet arrived. The mind is silent, filled only with the sound of running water and the subliminal song of Keats’ nightingale, is soothed by the knowledge that beyond it all the watching tree is budding, birthing tiny, tight florets, white like stars in cold winters, just as defiant and alive.
With use, love becomes polished like the indigo ocean merging with milky horizons whose perpetual harmony swells and sinks like grains of wood dust in wet grass.
I spent summer like a lily in water: in tranquil pursuit of passing gusts of life, lemon ice cream cones, skies blanching, then darkening, blushing and blossoming meditatively like lazy fingers sleepwalking on electric skin. Sometimes, the sound of pebbles skipped across the shiny surface; Sometimes, the distant rumble of a storm that never came – Such small upsets when the world is in sun-soaked reverie, but overly prone to forget that all summers must end.
Look at how wild I grow! Look how splendid my bloom! Watch me, the one amongst many, ruffle my petals, see me direct growth towards teasing lights, towards the place I believe to be warm. Ah, how this sun loves, and that sun adores me! How vibrant the morning perceives me, but how wilted the night when I, moonlit, grow paler, thin-skinned, translucent, and dream of meandering brooks while cold-burning stars warn: “What is a river without a bed to confine it, how does a stream know where to flow without the embrace of the land?” There is no garden without fence: only transitory glory, only ivory nightbloom defencelessly shimmering against the black of an indifferent sky.
The first my thought, the other my desire: Two sprightly nymphs that follow you around, Their whole intent to keep your heart afire So that this love can thrive on solid ground. You leave too early at the light of day With night’s remembrance still on supple skin Though time apart can never lead astray That which is one, such parting is a sin. Until you can return to waiting arms And reap those longing kisses, bitter sweet From rosy lips that promise other charms Time will limp by on heavy, dragging feet. This much is certain, this we know is true: You’re home with me and I belong to you.
Maybe I like the dark because all my mirrors are fractured: Look at me, this is my house my car my blouse this my art, my back, my lungs, my breasts this is my heart this is my chest heaving as I spell words, these are my eyes seeking failed illuminati in the desert sands setting like suns over flowers, forever asleep.