I looked away, ashamed,
then raised my hand
to the hawthorn
and plucked its fruit.
I wanted this metallic
sweetness on the tongue,
a gin of feral blood
to carry my desire
inward, to self-intoxicate
a longing I could not
act out. The men
passed me, lingered
at the boundary
of the green labyrinth –
my eye – and though
I could not be taken
by the arm, I wished
at least to be proximate,
enveloped and sated
as the gin would be
by the berry, coloured
or infringed by it.
I stood as each paired off
behind the leaves.
That evening, in bed,
the bowl in my lap,
I would take
the pricked needle
like a thorn wielded back
to the fruit, would turn
the body against
its own tenderness
and violate it.
Go to the lamplight
Go to the empty ring-road in its sleep
Go to the gates, go through
Go in the dew with your wet shoes
to the river, to the oxbow, to the weir –
Is he there?
See where the willows shiver
See the yellow of the pollen on the surface
of the water – stardust
of his slyness, his slipping away –
his gone-before-you-got-here –
so turn, so follow the cortege
of the fallen leaves from the bank,
from the reeds where the coots
and the water voles nest
and find the iron bridge, and cross it
Go to the larks in the Papal field
Bend to the violets and the archangels
Go to the hawthorn and knock
for the stolen child. Go to the holm-oaks –
Is he there?
Say love, I have read the sacred book
of this park each night, I have known
its shibboleths, its ruminations,
its ghosts, its undead – the guards –
the fire in the gatehouse
and still, go on to the empty barracks
decrepit and ruinous, to the rook-riven
parapets. Go to the car park by the pitch
with the headlights waiting, with the engines
killed and the windscreens all fogged over
Stand in the purgatory behind the trees
to watch the man passing the windows
like an angel, bowing to them
Watch each pane of glass lower
See the faces lit in the dashboard glow –
But stop – any one of them
might be a guard, sitting out, so quick,
run, quick, follow
the bike-light as it rattles uphill
to the standing shadows – is that him
by the hawthorn with the lighter,
with the cigarette, wearing his mask?
No, but take his hand. Say come, let us
find him. And careful now of the mud-slick
passage through the thicket, through the thorns
and the dog rose to the grotto, to the splay
and coil of the bodies moving, slowly,
to the groans and the breath, to the open eyes
watching, to the white tissues
and the scuffed ground
and see that man, there –
the one bent over himself, emptying
the animal of his body over the earth –
show your wound to him, stranger.
Say, Stranger, prove my body –
Say, Love, am I not a ghost –
O hoverfly and gnat and aphid,
stitched music of the sallow plough.
Mosquitoes, draw out my blood
for him. Make me a cloud of wings.
O insects, knitting a song for him
in the sways of the sycamore dark,
lay your veil across my head.
Marry me. I am a bride for you tonight.
Image © Pulpolux