Without home or colour
you pace this small sunlit circle
your shape cut out against
a reddish wall –
blood and shadow in this dark spring’s ending.
Dawn is lifting its head.
You feel the day’s threat
all heat and movement
a morning star as orange as stitched silk.
Your feet tangle bugle,
birds foot trefoil,
roses bruise the ground.
Blank swords of iris scythe the air.
Stones become sharp-faced birds
black and wheezing.
In that high window
a bed to stay awake in
a stranger’s bed soaked with
ghosts of sickness.
A house where women wake too late.
A wall of honeysuckle’s little mouths
suck the dawn dry.
If it would rain! Blot out
these words, make heart
forget its promises.
And drench the dry stone wall you are
stopped up with moss.
In the birth and cry of summer
you are shrunk to the withered
hands of ferns
down to the sound of slugs eating.
Dreams from an unattended place somewhere
enter the day
the way sisters enter your head.
As tens of death-devouring
gather on the wire
you tread the nettle and the thorn
and watch your trembling hands like glass
scratch a shallow sleep-like trench
for you to lie in.
They want the lamb of you laid down here
as sweet and still as coiled rope
but your stubborn limbs won’t fit.
And with your earthy hands upturned
your unclosed eyes are fixed
on smoking cones of buddleia
wisteria’s dark flood.
Your fevered mind is drawn
to footsteps in the alley
echoing freedom’s danger
and a thin voice breathing
life life life.
© Suzanne Batty, 2000