Stumbling on Beauty
That summer, I became adept
at finding beauty. I reached out
for it – the clean-scrubbed nails
on the nurse's fingers. They were beautiful.
The green flesh of an avocado;
a spider's web, caught in a hedge –
all beauty. I held it like a trophy.
I was so greedy for the loveliness
of a child swinging in a playground,
of a light caught in water
of a bird turning on emptiness –
I collected it, collated it, I held it tightly,
threw it high, up into the air, like
cherry blossom or confetti, like the light
that shatters through the branches of a tree.
The Red-haired Girl
Bobby Sands died. That's how old I am.
Bobby Sands died, and the red-haired girl died too,
two days apart – so now, when I discuss
the hunger strikers, I still feel
that gush of anger, that someone could just die.
We'd been in a school play together, her and I,
the Redhead. As if her hair defined her.
Perhaps it did. I think now, that hair might have been
her mother's first loss, the first thing
Somebody dropped out, so we
both moved up a notch, theatrically.
I became the mother, and she
became the governess. A comic part.
I wanted to play tragedy back then.
The father was a guy called Tim.
He wore white jeans. Went off and joined the Met.
The Metropolitan Police – so that maybe
when I was down in London, doing all that
student stuff, making my way in party clothes
at daybreak through the empty city streets,
and knowing this was how my life would always be,
if I'd been picked up for some minor crime,
or been the victim of an unprovoked attack,
so guileless in my tawdry party clothes –
it could have been him that I dealt with.
And maybe he was at Orgreave. So while I was
layering on my eyeliner and putting change
into the miner's tin, he was up there,
sticking in his boot. So far apart
we drift, just spiders, really, riding threads.
When my hairdresser shaved my head, she cried, and
an old lady sitting next to me reached over –
‘You look just like that Irish girl’, she said,
and we all laughed, smiling and sobbing. That was my
first loss, but nothing like her mother's –
that great cloud of Titian red, those curls,
she must have sighed and cursed that hair so many times,
and then wept at the losing of it.
The Generosity of Birds
By which I mean
The way the robin throws his song
out to the world
The way the herring gull
carves the sky
The way the starlings
The way the wren
calls from the hedge
The way the pigeons
swagger across the city square
The way the goldfinch
embroiders a line
between tree and sky
The way the blackbird
melts the world into music
The way the cormorant
opens its wings its arms its heart
to the wind
The way the lark
sings only of summer
The way the buzzard
reminds us to trust the sky
All poems: exclusive first publication by iamb