Weekend Poetry: The ghost in our house and other poems

The ghost in our house

Not you, but your after-image. A taste

in my mouth like waking parched, when

need has a weight and a flavour.

Nobody knew what to do with you. Mine

is a slippery pain that will not settle, that

questions and fidgets, just like a child.


I don't want to sleep. The dusty room

gathers its looming symmetries. Memory

squats, befouling the shadows, tearing

the heads off daisies, the legs off spiders.

I don't know why. But I do know this:

when you've been hungry then nothing

is ever enough.

Hunger remembers, hunger records,

like tape, like stone. And in the dark

our hungers mushroom, become a fungus

in the lung.

Hunger, most resonant malady, brightest

light, distorted sound and soft. We knew

this thing, just me and you. Some truths

cannot be held.


The nightworld has no need for words,

it does not seek to name the shapes

it strands like sighing islands in the bed,

the corners, boxes, stacks.


Times I feel I might forget, but love

restores what language lacks, and I

am not alone.

Save for this particular,

self-important loss, a strutting

silence in the head.


My friend I eat the hours. You have

gone where talk will not return you.

At the top of the stairs, on the landing

what's left of you is standing like a darker

patch of dark.


Loneliness of the long distance runner

Here's the thing, to see Northern Ireland from a plane, caught

on this, the wettest day of the wettest year, somewhere between

reprisal and amnesty. Or, walking into a bar in the foetid West,

holding this tenebrated glass to my chapped lips, to whisper

another porous slàinte with my American cousins. To come

suddenly South in a thundery light, dragging the whole aphotic

squalor of my heart, demanding to be loved. To scale longing

in the lean and leaning East, the pushy purple hills rising

like selfish giants to meet me. To do all this, and still I do

not understand. To find that every door is shut. Aul' folks,

locked in a last prefab taboo, will send away a stranger-girl.

Here's the thing, to tug my ugly forelock to the graves, hushed

in drab esteem, to feel nothing at all for the longest time

among the shrines, the martyred kitsch, the rows of tea lights,

mouldy stone. For my guts to hurt, to enter the church bent

double, doing votive coaxing: please to God and make it

good and I’ll come good this one time once. To bring you

flowers that stink of recession and petrol, to fumble with

frostbit fingers, kneeling at generic fences. To look for you,

and who I am, and how do I even begin to belong. To be

followed back on a Friday night to my Queen’s Quarter B&B

by a ghost, to lean  into  his  haunting as  a   driver   on   ice   

turns   into   a   skid. And what it is, is the sea is full of shadows,

and I am opening my phone, culling the numbers like rabbits.

It is to leave, resigned to being left. The thing is, living in

London, lapping the piss-pungent park in the morning, trying

to remember to breathe. The trick is to push myself harder,

to sweat you out, to pant and gasp through a nagging stitch:

I am not your child. But I am your child.  

Rock bottom

He walked out over the estuary, like King

Cnut contradicting the tide. He walked until

the numb pearlescent light spread from his

waist like a grey soutane. The gulls rose up

around him, startled and horny as sailors on

shore leave, alarmed by the possible sky,

its cold miraculous lack. He walked with

his hands at his sides, his white cuffs

trailing like paper boats. He walked until

his fingers pushed deep into the creamy

haunches of a wave. He walked until

freezing water ate holes through his best

black jacket like moths, till it smoothed

the creases from his shirt; till it twisted

his tie like a charmed snake. He stepped

into vanishing, knelt, without solemnity

or fervour, was met by a velvety purring

dark. And this is how I picture him,

marbled, cosseted and drowsing, on a bed

on blue anemones. His smile a lustring

relic, eyes like sunken stars.

Fran Lock


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