Four Poems

Robin Robertson

La Stanza delle Mosche

The room sizzles in the morning sun.
A tinnitus of flies throbs at the bright windows,
butting and dunting the glass; one dings
off the light, to the floor, vibrating blackly –
pittering against the wall before taxi
and take-off: another low moaning flight,
another fruitless stab at the world outside.
They drop on my desk, my hands,
and spin their long deaths on their backs
on the white tiles, like tiny humming tops
that stop and start: badly-wired armatures,
or (literally) flywheels, chasing their tails,
first one way then the other – fizzling
dervishes, whining to be stubbed out.

Samhain

My daughters, playing at witch and devil, gaze
at our visitor, lantern-jawed
in his orange and black; they stare
at him, at the liver spots on his empty hands.

A guest is as good as a ghost
at this time, at the hinge of the year
when the gap between living and dead
is only air. Our last apples stale in his lap.

By the light of the long-fires, the soft
mouth of the turnip-lantern curls in,
blue-white and pursed, a candy floss
of mould around the chin.

Old Ways

You are near to the place
where they make the leather ghosts:
shoulder-bags like lost children,
purses shaped as cloven hooves
so you can walk to the shops
holding the devil’s hand.

The Lake at Dusk

I watch the day break down
over the lake: wind
looting the trees,
leaving paw-prints on the water
for the water-witch to read.

With the pass of a hand
it stops,
and the scoured glass
lies pewter-still
in a red, raking light,
hardening to mirror.

Rinsed after the rain,
the forest is triggered and tripwired;
when I pause for a bird call
the silence takes time
to reassemble around me
like a dream retrieved.
No one will find me here.

The ditches seethe with frogs
and the track is lit
with their green and yellow
flattened stars.
Some let a cloudy scribble
milk out from their sides, like semen;
all of them carry the same rubric,
legible and bright.
The reed-pool trembles,
as if for a god.
Night switches through the trees.

In the open dark
all maps are useless:
the tracks are bloodied;
the tracks are washed clean.
Is this a way through the forest,
this path? Is this the way I came?