Three Poems

Simon Armitage

The Lost Letter of the Late Jud Fry

Wake.
And in my head
walk barefoot naked from the bed
towards the day, then
wait.

Hold.
The dawn will crack
its egg into the morning’s bowl
and him on horseback,
gold.

Me,
I’m in the shed, I’m
working on it: a plus b plus c, it’s
you, him, me. It’s
three.

Hell,
this hole, this shack.
The sun makes light of me
behind my back.
Well,

good.
I give you the applause
of ringdoves lifting from the wood
and for an encore,
blood.

Look,
see, no man
should be me, the very opposite
of snowman:
soot.

I
work that black dust
where I slice your name into my forearm
with a jackknife: L.A.U.R.E.
Y.

You
at the window now,
undressed. I underestimated him,
never saw you as a pair, a
two.

Yours;
that’s him for sure.
The sun will have its day,
its weeks, months,
years.

Fine.
But just for once, for me,
dig deep, think twice, be otherwise, be
someone else this time.
Mine.

Penelope

Your man is long gone, and I have loitered
by your garden gate; weeded the border,
turned the soil over, waited on your word.

There is a quilt or sheet or counterpane
strung out across a tenterframe; by day
you make it, sitting in the window seat.

And you have crossed your heart and hoped
to die, promised that this cover, blanket,
bedspread, when completed, will envelop me
with you.

            Penelope, one night last June
I came for fruit, and from the crow’s nest
of the cherry tree I made you out: back
stitching one day’s work, releasing knot
from thread, unhitching weft from warp from weft ...
I dropped down from the tree and left.

That’s fine. You’re buying time, holding your breath,
watching, waiting for your man to show.

I’m in the garden picking you a rose.
This new strain with their frantic, crimson heads,
open now and at their very best, having dozed
all winter in a deep, rich bed, the trench
I sank one evening by the potting shed.
I mark the best bloom, take it at the neck.

On the Trail of the Old Ways

Start from a hearth, which is the true heart
of a house.
Face south. Walk forward to the nearest mound.
Go east alone
through castle, crossroads, smithy, hallowed ground,
pass on the right
a standing stone. Pick up a tooth, a feather
or a bone.
Next, take a bearing to the Long or Lone
or Lanky Man,
take in a well, a church, a single birch,
make for a copse,
go three times round a moat. Unearth a flint
or coin,
then find a ditch or pond to let it sink
or make it skim.
The gate between two trees leads to a road;
walk north,
then west towards the sun to where it sets.
Look left
and ford the brook. There they are. Pick them up.