I must bear the lead lined apron
For you are centre stage.
I hold up your lines
While they frame your tiny chest
And take a shot.
I ask when I can hold you
on my knees again.
Lights up behind the glass,
We spot your marks together.
We search your sunny soul
We are moulds of each other
You and I
Like the earth that folds together
You and I
Our bodies, bending, rolled forever
Hand in hand
Beneath the sky.
I swung on that rope like the lights
Of a racing car
High-beamed and arcing and
Beating out time.
Only the hawk saw, hung low
In the monochrome,
The black of my legs spreading
Lines in the frost,
His cry and my creaking a
Shadow of sleeping; the
Sun creeping over the
Valley’s far side.
My heart is the hole in the fence
At the end of the garden
Making a mockery of the borders
Somebody laid out once.
That it would happen on a bridge
Was inevitable, I suppose.
That thin saliva strand
between the beggars in the south
and the beating heart
that Monet loved
And I did too.
I used to walk between the lines
in those days, from
do you mind to
fuck you miss
at each end of the river
with the wind blowing up
from the banks in the distance,
muddy with money.
And the bombs,
we’ve forgotten, there have been so many,
but they used to call them in, then.
Nothing sudden about
New bodies in the tunnels,
with the navvy bones, forgotten.
No hire cars then or odd little
stabbing motions on sunny afternoons, Britain first
lest we forget forensics teams
shot from helicopters, kneeling
for all the world
like bunches of flowers
left by the railing.
We’re marked as safe, we happy few:
Spinning wheels and far away curses cannot touch us here.
No blood on our hands.
My cabbie calls them pricks
and will not go
south of the river.
And we keep calm and carry on
for this is London.
And in a week or two,
There is a temple to Mithras
In the City of London.
It was moved to make way for new gods,
But we have always worshipped
Bulls and secrets there.
We sliced through the tiers
And lifted its foundations
To accommodate Legal and General.
Buried the stream with his head in it.
Now we look through mirrored glass at mysteries,
File down Walbrook in the rain like mourners
And do not know that we are passing.
But when we come to read the signs,
We still throw coins in the well
For the bathers, I am the oracle.
Supplicants gratefully received
By me, the nodding goddess,
Watching in case they drown.
The sunbeams are towelled out of their hair.
I draw the curtain on monsters
And notice again, the holes
Left by the cords I cut.
It is late then, when she asks
Will I live to be one hundred,
How long do people stay alive?
I don’t know, I answer.
There is no if for this, no but.
And she doesn’t want to be six, any more, she’ll stick at five.
You’re a bit young to be worrying about death, I say,
And turn off the fairy lights
In case they burn the house down.
At the nursing home, Ivy is queen.
Vee to her friends, she holds court over Sunday’s roast chicken and sprouts,
gravy dabbed from her chin by the firm, jolly hands of her ladies in waiting.
She had a time of it, in the war, she says.
No bananas then. And a good life, can’t complain.
She waves her hands, all blue blood and bone and the rest of us scrape as we stand.
No crumble for me, she says.
I’m watching my figure.
My daughter has eyes the exact colour of the North Sea in winter.
She gets that from her father.
But when she turns her head
to laugh at something I have said
In her face, a person surfaces
that I have never met.
On her lips and in her jaw
They look from lines and claw
Themselves up for a view
That goes further
Than living memory. And then,
She descends directly down the stairs
In her birthday suit.
She gets that from her mother.