Tuesday 24 October 2017

October in Summer: Poems at Can Serrat

Magic Woman

We stand in the middle of the woodpile, flames spitting, licking our ankles, burned at the pyre for laughing too loud, for running naked in the woods, for cackling and scheming and spending nights in the forest crouched down bleeding into moss, unconcerned as the animals watch, deers and hares and the moonlight glare, and the crunch of leaves as we dance internally to the goatskin drum of our fathers – distant and absent and here's their support, the rhythm of a heartbeat, a long flowing river of genes, an inheritance etched on bones and traced invisible on skin.

  We command ourselves, we spell us into being.

     We are connected to the underground network of roots and we sing in the morning, listening to birds, and the echo of wolves leftover from the deep dark night and carrying with it, a resonance, metallic and clanging, and thick in the air so that owls dart around it mid-flight, an airborne circuit, swooshing and gliding -

           my grandmother, one of my many mothers, said to me in our tent as the fire glowed inside, she said, 'Never expect anything, just know or don't know', and I understand now that she was referring to a sense of presence, a here-ness in the body, my stomach knows, my whole body alive and beating with all the knowledge needed to know -

                                      I am an ancient remedy and a modern tonic

         - I admire bubbles as they pop up on the edges of lakes, and tadpoles and reeds, and those unknown depths where tragic heroines are left lamenting, where ghosts live and swords go to die, the death and the wonder of deep deep water.

   A sneeze may wake me from my dream but I will still be in the fire, it is where I burn eternally, and all these lives are mere projections, spells I cast to distract me from the pain.

I am a magic woman and I have a thousand more lives to conjure and lead until I am ash. 


I Make Myself Clear

Banana peel held in a half-open palm

the birds alight and

wasps in their pristine costumes,

glossy yellow, petrol black

they would be skinny and cold if they were human.

We sit together at the watch-tower

up the steep stone steps

in warm shadow

the sun not yet come.

Yes I was chosen

Yes there is space

I wonder, were we all meant to meet in this way?

I forget,

I was not born in a pond

there was a jet-stream at my birth.

We all take up space

and this is my open enclosure

this is the invisible parameter

between fiction and truth.

We are ghosts reborn

skeletons on loan

funerals at home.

Creation beats us bloody

tears off our skin

so we feel the day's every detail.

Begin with an image

begin at the mountain-top

on hollow ground

the tree-bark snaps.



Grapes hang beside cobwebs and lightbulbs

Dying sun shines peach against mutating clouds

The town sleeps, in the wake of sirens.


Communal Living

Rat-a-tat groaning of a waking house

the clang and chink of dishes

footsteps, bare skin on tiles

creaking stairs,

thin plasterboard.


the garden fluctuates and blooms.

Elderly crows recall bluebells in June.

Bugs in their circus flights.

We look through cardboard telescopes

only to see grooves of a palm

skin soft, colour mute and reddish,

glowing with trapped light.

Though these minutes are empty

people switch positions -

chess pieces unsupervised,

in flux.



Toes planted in wet sand, how the waves crash so softly in the drizzly grey morning, all of us expected to chime in with wholesome-hearted wonder, the serene faces of nature lovers. But I do not feel these things, I feel a deep, sad rawness. I thank God, the creator (how hard it must be, all those blank reluctant pages, prescribing hang-ups, personalities, DNA malfunctions, addiction, delight) I thank God for the transparency of skin, how it soaks its surroundings, how I glow so alive, so alive, so alive, like the rock pools, the crags, the dainty formations of sand. How the sea spray plays with the sun ray. How we stand at the precipice, our faint stories floating above us like lost children. Walking in a quick stride, we are the process.
                                                           I am a body and I am not linear.



The chink of ice against glass,

with open faces

bodies tread past.

Someone wheels a barrow

then carries it.

The way your lips feel against my finger:

that's how October feels in summer.

The way cigarettes smell on your jumper:

I would say stain

if it wasn't so fragrant.


Spirit Animal

The leopard sleeps in a smoking cauldron at the foot of my bed. My toes curl up with his thick breath, condensation and meaty vapours drip down between them, the smell reaches me, musty and primal, and I wonder if he is just a cub now what will he grow into? He doesn’t even know his full strength, he has yet to notice himself bulk up in the mirror, to check his weight or practise his growl alone with the window closed. He just is, and is fierce with it too. I did not birth him but he is a part of me that grew too literal and large and had no other option but to escape. His claws tighten around my big toe. He licks the edges of my nail and it tickles. I think of sandpaper and fetishes. So many animals in this house already, yet more buzzing outside the window.


To Dream

When I dream I let them float and disappear in the morning. There is a certain grown-up wisdom in that, a Buddhist calm that receives and lets go. Perhaps we really do travel every night, is that why I’m so exhausted every morning, jet-lagged with time difference. Vulnerable and open to all the interpretative power of the dream world, filled with shadows and symbols, and seconds that mean days. Skylights welcome me when I wake and most days they are blue and wispy-white. The farmer’s engine growls, gates clang, dogs call each other hoarse, and the silent twitter of birds line each moment with the faintest of shimmers. Like a fish gliding with its whole body, let us swim confidently and surely towards a new day.