Late August

mountain a wimple         starched folds

birds         the black page turning
the message folded and unfolded

in that turning of the page
inside out, in that scarf
of shadow, in that message

you wanted death to give
not only take from us




you had one subject
the body

others draw
what the body is, how it endures
your flesh
speaks something else

every line an outline
of that dark matter that is
not even the self staring from a face,
not the longing to be seen,
not what desires –
even our scorn a form
of desire –
not the pooling of belly and arm
as if the weight of flesh
bends the air

but rather
what self, longing, flesh
are shaped by

what the body proves



the mist
moved slowly across
the field held down
by stones, stitch of trees

what colour was the mist
x-ray grey
how still was it
the iv drip before it falls

mist always at a distance
always as far as sight

I stopped the car to watch it cross the field
black earth breathing its winter breath



a twitch of space          a tremor
spasmed the boulders in the field

then      the world reformed
stillness again
a lens of water adhering to a branch

slowly I saw it was the stones themselves
that had come alive





the field disappeared in the mist

still the bison stood         animal earth      invisible

the trees too      remained as before
lines of graphite on wet paper

the drop of light on the thorn
still as before


all day you were busy dying



we did not think you would draw again
then suddenly weeks of work
in a few hours



you dug breath from your lungs
knew resting would leave you
too exhausted to continue



sudden as remembering
you opened your eyes

gripped my hand, your instinctive


covalent bond

impossible strength

we have never failed each other



I sat next to the bed
I told you how the bison woke
the earth
I knew you were listening
you heard



life can become so still


the iv drip
before it falls

earth of the body
where a life grows



the stillness between silence
and muteness



the moment desire forcibly
is renamed

the precise space between
those two words



you loved like a conspirator         against everything
that has power to defeat us

you led me from the cemetery
your grip was firm


grief is firm



in the cemetery I understood



we keep what belongs to us







These poems are taken from Michaels’s new collection All We Saw, published this month by Bloomsbury.


Photograph © Dru!


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