Pavements here are earth, quiet water, sky.
We push up slow through last night’s wet,
runneled wakes of grass wheel back behind
each claggy step. Poodled trees, pollarded
to fluffs of leaf, lean spindled limbs, lead on
to low light buildings, careful shoulderings
of hedge that pass, contour, contain.
This is shawled land, he wraps it round him tight.
A winding-sheet of path, wide forgetful windows
searching clouds as if glassed days are somehow
lost behind clipped privet lines or nunnish lily stems
while dark doors stand, full of tepid tea and waiting.
We’re sensitive as chameleons to all this in-between,
know life is neither here nor there, like estuaries and sea.
It wasn’t that you ran to the river
as women might do, back to
the birth, a breaking of waters.
It wasn’t that I could picture you,
thin and urgent as a may-fly.
It was the time of day, when sky
was bursting with trees and promise,
and I was choosing apples for
your red bowl.
We hadn’t left you long alone, too long
as longing is, I didn’t see
the river flowers, blue speedwell wet
about your eyes. I never thought that loss
could be as white as skin
to touch. It was the time of day, when
all was taut with now and then,
and I was choosing apples with
Ruckles, rhytides, he soaps his face by rote,
dabbles under-down pools of shallow cheek.
My eye maps the stippled skin, a shaved stutter
of capillaries, jowls dripping thin like chapel wax.
I mirror-trace the line of lobe, soft as ox-tongue,
sudded, ears curlicued like nesting birds each
temple pulse a hesitating pitter. How old words fail
him now, foot-notes fast fading. I’m listening to water.
This is where the living wait.
A city’s distant cubes and soarings,
our old local on a cobbled quay,
your boat and a little sun belying absences.
We’re ashed from the morning scattering,
emptied of sea. Talk circles your leaving
like a buoy and we long for certainty of land,
our beer flat and warm as tilled brown fields.
How to explain that hush of listening glass,
a rush of greening light, as if somewhere
the very water of you turns to leaves.
Originally from Budleigh Salterton in Devon, Mary has been living in France near Aix en Provence for many years and is a freelance translator. She won the 2015 Wenlock Prize and has been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize. She has been published in anthologies and online magazines and is working towards her first collection.