Poems of people seem to make up this week’s theme: people at various stages in life, looked back on, looked forward to. The poets are Peter Daniels, David Cooke, Sue Hubbard, Gordon Meade, and Mary Wight.
How to send, see the first post in the August archive. It hasn’t changed.
Dull Funeral Home
A little past a car wash, on your left
a statue of a Holstein cow; on your right — “Hey,
can we stop the car a minute?” — it’s that sign.
And whenever you need it, they have time.
Visit for a drink with the embalmer,
take as long as you like. Their expertise
is at your disposal.
Death needn’t be a time to do anything.
If you want fuss, that’s down to you.
This is America’s Dairyland,
they put trust in cows, here. They know
your dead meat turns out as lively as your recipe.
Follow the standard procedures
for your denomination, hire the Fort Snelling
Memorial Chapel — “Staff available for weddings
and other pastoral acts”. New Age
ritual consultancies advertise
“Planned observance for solemn
or festive occasions, parenting,
competitive events, establishing traditions,
anniversaries, pet loss”.
if anything happens, ask for the Dull
Funeral Home. They don’t need ideas.
First published in Brangle, Queens University, Belfast, 1997. Also in Counting Eggs, Mulfran Press, 2012
Songs he sang her
The writer’s parents, Irish migrants who met in London
I imagine their whisperings along grey streets,
trying now to understand what their courtship
might have been. Even the word is a period piece,
upright and earnest, like a pledge of clear intent
that starts at temperance dances
where he buys a cordial which she accepts.
He is skinnier than I remember,
though his hair is the same: the unruly waves
brushed back off his high forehead;
his Pioneer pin a piety that won’t survive;
while she is so young. Then, as now,
all go and focused on living.
Marriage involves a letter from home,
parish boundaries, dealings with priests.
Holloway and Camden –
familiar haunts split by jurisdiction.
Then come years of thrift and children,
who will learn how their father
sang songs to their mother,
his favourite I’ll Walk Beside You,
loved for its melody and because it was true.
first published in The Reader, 2010 and subsequently in Work Horses, Ward Wood in 2012.
Nude in Bathtub
Between the edge of the afternoon
and dusk, between the bath’s white
rim and the band of apricot light,
she bathed, each day, as if dreaming.
From the doorway he noted
her right foot hooked for balance
beneath the enamel lip, body
and water all one in a miasma
of mist, a haze of lavender blue.
Such intimacy. A woman, two walls,
a chequered floor, the small
curled dog basking in a pool
of sun reflected from the tiles
above the bath. Outside
the throbbing heat. So many times
he has drawn her, caught the obsessive
soaping of her small breasts,
compressed the crouched frame into
his picture space, the nervy movements
that hemmed in his life.
The house exudes her still,
breathes her from each sunlit corner,
secretes her lingering smell
from shelves of rosewood armoires,
and the folded silk chemises
he doesn’t have the heart to touch.
And from the landing, his memory tricks,
as through the open door the smudged
floor glistens with silvered tracks,
her watered foot prints to and from
the tub where she floats in almond oil
deep in her sarcophagus of light.
First published in Ghost Station, Salt Publishing, 2004. Image: Nude in bathtub, by Bonnard.
A Gibbous Moon
A gibbous moon, pregnant
with longing, hangs herself
above the Firth of Forth,
while you lie sleeping further
south, our child curled crescent-
like inside your womb.
And I have always been
a north-east man, diagonal
and straight, knowing only of
the struggle between land and sea.
While you, a southwest woman,
covered in mists, full of inlets
and uninhabited islands, know also
that land and sea can kiss.
Between us, we have made
a child, uncurling in your
heartland. Realigning contours,
we prepare for life.
First published in A Man At Sea, diehard publishers, 2003
after Alastair Reid’s ‘Scotland’
I met the woman Alastair met,
still telling the world we’ll pay for it
the sun shining on her face
as she reclined on a bed
and I wondered, if we pay at all,
do we pay ahead?
First published in Gutter, Feb 2012