Sometimes, I gather up all the words I love and watch them playing together. It doesn’t do to have favourites, I know that, But who can resist words that sizzle on the page and dance. Some so irresistible whole poems are built around them.
Colours are always delectable, Weaving their way through every get-together. Colour words do, of course, have to be dealt with extremely carefully, As favouring lemon over green Will attract very sharp looks from orange.
Full stops and commas, paragraphs, colons, semi-colons, Little Latin phrases, ‘Et tu, Brutus,’ etcetera, etcetera, And those little raindrop marks that attend every speech, Must all be taken into account But can be missed out altogether if careless of censure. Recommended.
A word of advice. Do not ever forget the numbers family, For if they are ignored or forgotten they get quite vocal, Even a little spiteful and unforgiving.
No! Keep them in sight at all times, Insisting they play nicely. One and one making two, for instance. Otherwise, you can never bring them to order, Even when put into really pleasant columns, They remain difficult and wilful.
But there we are, that’s words and things for you.
In that hour of the afternoon, Quiet and bare, the leaves having long since fallen, The woods set firm, thick and heavy, Sending shape and shadow creeping towards us, My friend lay in the bunk next to mine And I watched her.
Watched the bunk slowly topple over, Saw her black hair suddenly veiled with blossom, A slow and icy blossom of snow, Touching her closed eyes, restless and flickering Under their thin brown skin covering.
I could not breathe for fear but fell beside her, Lying there, watching her, anxiously whispering. I could not move until they picked her up, Gathering her to them like a fallen flower, A crumpled petal. Carrying her away.
Now the wicked woods shook with laughter, Bare branches creaking with loss And its greedy companion, loneliness. Snow falling quietly on all the little girls Lying in the snow and icy air.
They had a terrible falling out, One hurting the other Until, little by little, Love seeped away Through the cracks newly discovered, Leaving them on islands of pain. There was nothing to be done, For nothing could reach them.
Until they spoke to the Future, Waiting until it got back to them. Lover needing to reach Lover, To sail across this sea of misunderstanding. End this separation. Quick! Hasten to do it. Hurry! Fashion a boat out of love, Sail it fast to each other.
Tapping its teeth with a long coral finger, The Future said it couldn’t see any problem As long as they had a conveyance that would float. Murmuring of wrecks and wild weather. Laughing out loud when they told it What they would be sailing in, Making whales sneeze and shells clatter As first one said and then the other, Each would be sailing in their own stone boat.
I walked all the way from town And it was such a dark night. The moon slipping in and out Of the silent sky, As if it were newly silvered And couldn’t bear to be hidden.
My steps sounding as loud As a snapped branch in the wind, I jumped off the paving Onto the dirt path running by the river, Where, every now and then, Stars sailed in the water and drowned.
I was always told, as a certainty, That the young men marched down here, Heading to where their Lovers And watchful mothers waited. Getting so close to home, Their shadows sparkled on closed doors, Their feet stepping quietly Down the garden path, mostly on the grass, Not to waken those still listening.
The world quivered at such tenderness, Night folding in upon itself, Folding in upon love, adding and multiplying.
The dog barked and the cat Wound around a frill of empty air, And someone in the sleeping house Looked out of a window, There was nothing to be seen.
But, as everyone knows, that didn’t mean No-one was there.