It’s all a case of borrowed breaths.
We take in a lungful.
Some words, lights and shadows. We stand,
feet flat on the ground.
A beating heart. Breathe out.
We give it back.
To exist between seconds,
in the gaps we don’t count is a conquest.
This victory is mine, this and this and this-
Every step I’ve left behind has followed me to this instant.
All the words spoken, suspended in air;
transient and fleeting as a swarm of butterflies.
Each moment a little piece of time I carved out all on my own.
Every one I’ve occupied has been a sort-of home,
some better lived in, furnished on the mood,
rooms bursting with people, art on the walls,
the smell of cooked food. Others contain me and
only me, curled under a little tin roof.
I wish I had something important to say,
some grand wisdom to impart on my death bed;
words to live by, a rule to follow,
a weight to measure your life against.
An answer to the question: ‘what does it all mean?’
But if I only know one thing… there’s something to be said
about standing barefoot in the dirt in the woods.
So take off the wellies, the woolly socks. Let yourself be led
by the child within who wants to wiggle her toes in the mud,
and race down the leaf-slick slopes and mounds,
to lie rosy cheeked and breathless amongst the bracken,
and watch the world, suddenly so much taller from the ground.
Give yourself those precious minutes to breathe
and feel the small creatures and wizened trees lean in
to mutter and wonder “what on earth is she doing” and
somewhere high above, the green woodpecker is laughing
Look at us now, I say to the wind. It does not reply,
this is not my horizon. The clouds scud by,
little grey fishing boats in a wide-open sea.
I want to feel how I did as a child,
when the world was raw and clean
and I had no outline. When the brook
babbled in a coherent tongue and
the grass was high enough to hold, when
there was nothing between me and the sky
and all its colours and I could reach out
to the stars and graze my palms. When I
felt everything in its entirety and knew no better.
One of the biggest mistakes I ever made
was thinking love was something to have and hold;
that it was to give and take and, like that pen
or five pence coin, one day lose.
But love is a verb; a doing word. See it everywhere
happening in its simplest form and it can never leave you.
Look to where the horizon kisses the sea, is that not love?
See the silver birch stretching towards the sun,
naked and gnarled and warmed all the same,
Is that not devotion?
See the starlings rise from the reedbeds;
whirling against the glare of the white winter sky,
a murmuration unfurling like a flag to declare-
bodies in unison- their joy at simply being
A lit window after dark, the curtain not yet closed,
the lives inside tender and exposed against the night;
the pulse point of a home, see – there
is yours too, equally as bright
And the river; that soft throat of the world
crooning the name of all things, if only you stop and listen.
Does yours not exist among them,
in this world despite the odds?
Are you not here too,
whole and alive to love in turn?
Is that not life’s truest labour?
Is that not what’s holding it all together?
Somewhere between the waking and the rising,
After presence has returned but
before logic has set a course,
thoughts roll in like fog off the sea.
Settling in, half-conscious half dream,
clouding and fathomless
against the far stretching grey of sleep.
Until a clock chimes, a bell rings and
the three dimensions come into focus.
Time is again on speaking terms,
absent gods return home, this body
is yours again, this breath is your own.
To wake, pushing out, the sky
presses in, meeting in the middle
to mould intention, turn off the alarm,
open an eye, it’s time to rise it’s time to shine.
There’s a softness to the sound of you;
One that words can’t capture
A sharpness to the shape of you
One the world can’t touch (dare not touch)
It’s a halo fitting angelic wrath
And heavenly radiance
That runs circles round my neck
Your name in my throat keeps it there
(Holds it there) close to my heart
Where it can bloom with very breath
It was not a promise or a prayer
But the solid subsistence
of time that told of today’s end,
All days end, and the persistence
of tomorrow’s coming
To arrive like summer rain
With no portent of peace
On this cracked earth but relief
From the now, soon to leave
With the parting clouds and a whisper
Their word, grey and shifting
As tomorrow said to come again
There’s something healing
in these summer evenings;
A cloying nectar, a dizzy buzz
clamouring in the voice
of strangers on the balcony above.
The radio fizzing out of tune;
loud and lewd and joined
by laughter untouched untamed
by modest day. The breeze a balm
on flushed faces, eager to grin, to live wide eyed
and blind to dark city corners. ‘Not tonight!’
we say, and death and all his angels cry
unheard; ‘here’s to life, and life again’
The grief comes in waves
and there is memory in the uprush
It rises whole and gleaming
keening something bitter sweet
to break upon the shore
Once more it crashes with resounding thunder
Storm swept eyes and shipwrecked throat
To scream to cry to wash away…
To recede again with an outward breath
Exhale. A sigh, a gentle hush
that comes with missing one so much
(I miss you so, and all my love)