The Long Day Closes

Lavinia Greenlaw

Pulled from my shell of dreams and noise,
I was taken to live in a quiet place
where the undiluted dark of the streets
without streetlight, had no emphasis.

Boys on boys’ shoulders turned
the crossroads signpost back, conferred
on baffled drivers, four blind corners,
an added hour of English winter.

Power cuts shut the short days down.
I moved my bed against the boards
that hid the chimney, kindled warmth
and probed the heater’s one grey bar.

(I near enough went up in smoke,
the shock made metal of my bones,
suspended me in a dead boom.)
We were ancients, reading flames,

trimming wicks and filling wells with oil.
I hacked crow feathers into quills,
cooked up a raw and bloody ink,
a berry tincture so red-gold,

my scratched-out maps of cities glowed
like city night, then dried into scrolls
I sealed with wax that once ignited,
hissed and spat like a fuse . . .

The girls at school ironed their hair
while mine writhed in snakes. I stared
myself to stone. My vision failed:
things went first at the edges, fields

flooded fields, chalk lifted off from boards
like snow from mountains, came apart
through distance, like the wiped faces
my eyes could not now reach.