Let us begin at slant-light
with cut felt flickers,
unhooding cubic skulls,
furtive and hungry.
Trace our loopy symmetries
beneath the canopy as we feed,
follow our dance with open faces -
long diverged from the birds.
You cannot hear us but you’ll feel
our hunting song across your teeth
defiling the laws of physics
with frequencies beyond this.
Watch our velvet forms take on
three dimensions or four
as we vanish into sky space,
a filigree of apple tree
bursting into fret-work,
scraps of jinking balsa,
flicking the Vs, skimming
odd quick trajectories.
We are fickle as kits,
wombed and jewelled
with kidneys, ovaries,
rows of studded teats.
Born to kill, we are strung
on struts of steel; dissolve
in darkness to anti-matter,
a tapestry of gremlin flight
angling on planes of sound,
almost sightless, blind-to-green.
Turn your ears towards us,
bearing truths in our pitch and fall;
forest-worlds and gardens returned
in sonic negative, transformed.
Hold us in dry hands
when you find us in the woods,
stroke our underbellies
with something approaching tenderness.
Black is the colour of my true love’s hair
and sea blue are his eyes
but brown is where my duty lies
and brown is my despair.
I rise at dawn and tend to him
my brown-eyed concubine
but black is the colour of my true love’s hair
and blacker still my mind.
I look into my husband’s eyes
and swim within the brown
but black is the colour of my true love’s hair
and sea blue are his eyes -
black as the sky on midnight’s chime
and blue as brilliant day
black and blue are my sweetheart’s lies
but brown is what I bear.
‘Black is the colour of my true love’s hair’ is the title of a traditional folk song, thought to have originated from Scotland, later re-worked by Nina Simone.
Sister: I bring you woundwort -
we’ll pack your heart and staunch the flow,
cut a wand of yew
against love returned cold.
Soon you will stop bleeding -
we’ll leave him on a trestle,
scattered with feverfew, sew sprigs
for a shroud to keep him so.
Sister: you shall strengthen
as the moon fattens,
your blood ripening -
I’ll take you to the nettles
their fierce bite, the boys cut down,
our mother bending willow
and we’ll dress him in butterbur, dear sister,
Little rough one of the moors,
take these beneath your pillow:
nine stalks of royal fern,
foxglove flowers, fennel,
three bones of an old man
newly torn from the charnel.
We’ll burn these on embers,
smear the dust over our breasts
and sister, against the cold stone,
the sea’s hand, the wormy rose
he shall not wither away
but grow as true love grows.
after Michael Rosen’s ‘Fascism – I sometimes fear’
It does not come in steel-capped boots
with dogs on chains and loaded guns
it does not wear a uniform
it is chameleon
It likes black and white
lives in superstores and coffee shops
swings on playground gates
knows the popular kids,
lies amongst the daffodils
underfoot and in our hands
in our gags, pockets, fists,
it likes to be close to us
whispers down the lines
round and round
it holds its tail in its jaws
it holds something like a flag in its jaws
and it will not let go
it is very old
it is very old and it blinded itself
Oh it does not come on the ferry
or fall from planes or hide in the back of vans
it does not need to hide
it is very poorly
I’ve seen it everywhere – just today
at the corner shop with the crisps and cards
I saw it there but I would not hear
I smelt its breath I saw its red mouth moving
heard the echo echo echo
flower face up to the light,
stamens, hyphae threading
deep into me, and you bend
as if tending, ardently, to well-
turned soil, thumbing and tasting,
planting deep gold,
seeds that will root and bloom
into white lillies round other beds,
all of us down on our knees with the smell.
We found her in the shadow
of the gas drum;
a pleat of otherness
pinched from her dominion.
Maw like a whale,
head slit to gill air,
a dark scythe
at our feet.
We willed her wings to open
her form take shape,
conflate to airy spaces.
A new crescent moon.
We picked the whole contraption up,
brindled, tawny, creamy throat;
she spilled over our hands
Her claws were shriven,
her eyes the eyesof something fallen,
the weight unbearable
so we sent her onwards,
to beat at the heels
of a young god’s sandals,
set her away, windward.
I carry the owls with me
deep in my pocket or tucked
in the cup of my bra: they doze,
bills dipped in a bib of feathers,
turn janglesome if I forget they
are there when I run for the bus.
They come with me to work:
warm-blooded and tickly as fingers.
We sit in the road, the owls and I,
lost in the dwining day, the failing
sun a shinicle over the town.
I carry their flight over dreaming
hills, hollow bones lifting and keening.
They gowl for slumgullion,
cagmag, fresh mice: get shifty
as we reach the back country,
tear through my blouse,
glide over the spinney, searching,
I carry the owls with me, still,
in vellum and in sepia. I carry
them on my tongue and I feed them
to our children. May they carry the owls
for us all, their darknesses, their eyes.