For weeks, you work knee-deep with pans
and water. Pour and shake. You know
the silt like a lover, have undressed
every particle twice. First fingertips, then eyes.
Once, you read that every atom of every
Thing was fired in a star. The wet metals
of your long body. The gold the water works
so hard to save. When finally you see
that shock of light through muck, it’s like
you found your own heart after a lifetime
away. Your whole body beats with
recognition. The flush of your wrists,
your throat going like a hummingbird –
and see how your palm has the sun in it,
now, how the light blesses you. How you hold
it, up, shining: the rest of your life.
The way a shadow, falling from a birdwing,
moves winter along: this is how
the small bells ring in the coming light
as they follow the white violets into spring.
One foot in Winter, one on the turning
carousel of seasons: the Christmas hymns
are still fading; the daffodils
are tuning up underground.
Break a snowdrop at the waist, and the cap
will tip its simple scent to your wrist.
A flush of sweetness with each tick
of your pulse. And the white heart ticks
like the wood’s clock. The geese are back.
Listen as they split the clouds
with their sound, as the flowers count
towards long light, towards equinox.
In August 2016, a herd of over 300 reindeer were killed by a single lightning strike in Hardangervidda, Norway. Scientists explained that this was likely caused by the fact that reindeer tend to group together when spooked, and the close proximity of their bodies would have allowed the lightning strike to travel. through the herd unobstructed.
Lichen under tongues, still;
it was that quick. The boiled world split,
and caught the spooked group
in its lights.
Perhaps they found brief shelter under
the marvellous branches of their antlers. The way
a girl in a dress finds a tree in the rain
before she surrenders to translucence.
The lightning cut its teeth on a forest of blood.
Imagine the sound of their bodies
as they fell. A sigh as they peeled
out of formation. A pop and a spit as their fat
cooked where they stood.
A tangle of crowns in a brown field. A drift of smoke.
The metal lick of light that kissed
the metal in them; particles, perhaps,
from the same original star, an inevitable return
to lips and teeth. So that this, the collapse, is not a death,
but only those two old lovers meeting –
Here you are. After all these years.
And they leave, together. Not in the scavenging mouths
of foxes. Not in boxes in the scientists’ cars.
(from the longer sequence, “A Selkie’s Tale”)
Three babies he put into me;
not one of them took. They went out
like small flames I tried to cup
but snuffed to smoke instead. He thought
they were stones to weight my bones
to his house. They never were.
This night, I wrestle the landling creature
from the glove of its mother,
place the slick and intimate slip
on the straw before her. An offering.
She licks and fusses it up to a stumble – a bit
of a thing, all eyes and bewilder.
Imagine my fires, if they had burned.
My two sons. My daughter.
They’d have split the world along its fault,
like the line
between sky and water.
Cheryl Pearson lives and writes in Manchester in the North West of England. Her poems have appeared in publications including The Guardian, Southword, The High Window, Under The Radar, Poetry NorthWest, Crannog and Envoi. She won first prize in the High Sheriff’s Cheshire Prize for Literature 2016, and third prize in Bare Fiction Magazine’s national poetry competition in the same year. She has been shortlisted for the York Literature Festival Prize and the Princemere Poetry Prize, and was nominated for a 2017 Pushcart Prize. Her first full poetry collection, Oysterlight, was published by Pindrop Press in March 2017.