Two Poems

Alice Oswald

Story of a Man

last time a man was sealed in skin
like an inspoken word sealed in
it was mid-spring, most people arm in arm, most trees whispering
and he could just make out the fluttering light

it was warm, it was days you walk out without a coat
and little rain showers dash across the carpark
and he stood there, like a man on film, going on with his heartwork
at last at last he could think clearly

this is myself, he said,
rubbing round all four sides of my breeze-block patience
this is one or two flying strands of my eyes
this is my heart’s halo’s prismatic subdivisions

there were people bringing chairs to the fire-escapes, peering down.
it was mid-spring
and all day, all he could breathe
was the crow’sfoot tracks of his sighs’ small hollows in the air.

then in the half light, it half thawed,
he half, with a mist-hand, waved
alive in his skin-ruins.
at last at last he could think clearly

Walking Past a Rose This June Morning

is my heart a rose? how unspeakable
is my heart a rose? how unspeakable
is my heart folded to dismantle? how unspeakable
is a rose folded in its nerves? how unspeakable
is my heart secretly overhanging us? pause
is there a new world known only to breathing?
now inhale what I remember. pause. how unbreathable

this is my heart out. how unspeakable
this is my risen skin. how unthinkable
this is my tense touch-sensitive heart
this is its mass made springy by the rain
this loosening compression of hope. how unworkable
is an invisible ray lighting up your lungs? how invisible?
is it a weightless rapture? pause. how weightless?

now trace a breath-map in the air. how invisible?
is a rose a turning cylinder of senses? how unspeakable
is this the ghost of the heart, the actual
the inmost deceleration of its thought? how unspeakable
is everything still speeding around us? pause
is my heart the centre? how unbearable
is the rain a halo? how unbearable