At first they come singly, outriders
clinging to a thorn, a blade in my path,
or hovering inches from my cheek,
and then they’re faster, thicker,
a dark whiplash, a moving cylinder
of dark; the whole sky is black.
There’s no way round. I hide my hands,
tighten my small circle of hood,
and go on walking, my eyes sealed shut –
an effigy carved in green wood –
as I tense myself for stings,
listen for flying bodies
to dash themselves against cloth
like rain on canvas – but there’s only breath
vibrating, a seethe of wings
that parts to let me through,
unmarked. There’s not a single bee
caught in my hair or clothes,
though I shake myself. Were they even aware
I was human, stingable? I undo the zip
of my jacket, measure the sunken road
to the hilltop under its murk of cloud.
I sing as I go up.
The One Stone in the Granite Wall
I run my finger over lichen,
the granite’s grey-white bloom,
nubbed yellow, a blush like cheekbone.
This one stone is all gold knobs,
a buried vein of salmon.
Its polished jags are bony.
From deep-webbed fissures
the mortar has bled
blue-green – a slow leaching of copper.
How little we know of stones,
of how the salt breath eats them,
in what configuration.
Just water, and the crystal
cells open like bees’, the sulphates start
to hum, their bone queen sleeping.
Send Letters To:
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN
Please include name, address, and a telephone number.