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
passing

you wanted death to give
not only take from us

 

 

Bison

you had one subject
the body

others draw
what the body is, how it endures
pleasure
but
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

 

bison

 

 

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

joy

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
perhaps
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
grief

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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