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.
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.
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