From Loss

David Harsent

XIX

This room now: papers and books: a long drift over tables
over chairs to the floor. She said: ‘You’ll find him here
up to his arse in the tar-pits of poetry: find him lost
in some landscape of the mind: the mind’s perfect drear
salt-marsh-as-moonscape-as-snowscape-as-white-over-white
which is limitless from skyline to skyline.’ She said: ‘There
are ghosts here that crowd and jostle: they feed off silences
and wait for nightfall.’ And: ‘I will turn cards to find
what’s left for him: what’s left for me.’ Sometimes
he lies down with these rejects. His finger-bones ache
he imagines them blacked by a lifelong seepage of ink.
Among the crosshatch of deletions one line untouched:
She said: ‘This comes not from the scar but from the wound.’
With that a shift in her womb: the unnamed child.

She is the girl waiting
at the crossroads about
the dead hour of the night
in the face of fiers magyk
and whispers from the gibbet
ready to haul you down
and hold you fast no matter
what ugliness you come to.
She is your lost bride
and the heart’s failsafe.
Full moon in midwinter stillness
is death in abeyance
as blood slows and you
are held in that pale light
frost-fall and a caught breath.
There is no true healing
not at the well of sorrows
not at the whipping-post not
at the communion rail –
Christ’s firebreak: not in
the hall of mirrors where
you are set to rights
not in the basement bar
where you sit down
to a whisky-chain
and fall and rise and fall
back into a raw dawn light
over high-rise slumland
whose people each new day
go blind to daybreak:
numb to the toxic wind.
You know too well
their turf-war battle songs
their live-by/die-by graffiti
you know their stopless need.
Somewhere far from this
a cloudburst hits
the clitterfield. A hawk
rides the thunderhead.
It is sure evidence of grace
that stones glow
in a tarnished light
that the sound of the sea
pushes back against
the sound of the rain
that she can bring you here
with a gesture that sets
you and stones and bird
in the churn of the weather
and the arc of the sublime.

Prayers are raised against havoc and harm.
Tyranny goes by another name.
Word is sent from the sightless to the dumb.
The storm-horse gallops through the fire-storm.