Come evening, the blue-winged angels gather
on the city’s ceiling and arrange their limbs,
robes and feathers against the chill of dusk.
Mostly the roosting starlings are oblivious,
only one or two dream the angels as presences
which slit under their opaque eyelids
disturb sleep with light-glances,
make them wake crotechety or evangelical,
so they mutter to their families look
there are angels amongst us, crouching wing-folded
on the crumbling parapets and ornamental chimneys!
birds flute and glitter in the last light,
their voices snagging on the cills and Regency eaves.
They are million, they sleep jostled and crooning,
doze and dream, wake to be soothed again,
blue angels, their wings like ours signed
with constellations, starry zodiacs!
The angels tuck their dark fabrics
close against a cold older than stone or this
easy-going winter. Blue slate and lapis feathered
they huncker down, lean into the wind-breaks
of fancy dormers, watch intently,
narrowed opal eyes sometimes dilating black as space.
From time to time, one falls out into sky,
an Acapulco diver, straight legged, wings horizontal,
hovering near motionless on turbulent blue-violet air
fifteen metres high above the street.
She balances the air with her wingtips as a hawk does,
allowing nightwind to comb across her body,
pass messages through the antennae of her hair, until
she knows the exact direction of desire, swoops
in a quick burn of light, the great muscle of her heart
in the strong curve of her ribcage, driving her on.
Thoughtful, urgent, accurate, angels go deep
into the crowded city, fill certain windows
with shadowed gold and open some dreamers
into shocked joy: blue angels come amongst us
with bodies like ours in grace, their faces beautiful,
their lips moving... Listen, what are they saying?
What is it they would tell us?
As We Speed
Moon is an orange mouth
whistling stars to her heels,
they lope behind us as she keeps pace
or catches up on the high ground
She sends a fawn, startled creature,
as sentinel, places the cat
in its snake-form by the ditch;
Dog-star grins from a blurred hawthorn
as we speed past.
She is setting these watchers in pockets
where headlights won’t go,
where the road falls
again and again
steep into darkness.
At each dip I cling to these metal
bones fragile as Bird
who sings from the dead lichened
oak fingers signing out across space.
I sway, heart in my mouth,
will the road lose itself,
fall into nothing, flip
over the edge of light?
I could reach towards you for comfort
but you are driving, hands hard
on the wheel
and no moon in your lens.
Only the straight headlights
and the pools of darkness ahead,
as we crouch silent, separate
as travelling stars in the dark.
In Natural Light
Morning, not night under false electric gloss
nor the blind secrecy of darkness
but late, light morning, noon; stolen time
I am bare and jewelled and you in jeans still
and your lose white shirt.
(In Manet’s Dejeuner sur l’herbe one woman
looks at you thoughtfully, she’s not young
and she has chosen her nakedness. The men
staring, safe in their cloth suits
seem less than she: calm snake
of frisson under the sun, curious.)
In this natural light, our defiance
of radio news, cheap music, petrol air;
nothing shut out, lace only
at the open window and the street close.
No smoothing shadows on the reality of our bodies
growing older, nor the horrors of the turning world.
We keep our knowledge, memories, mourning, anger,
yet undermine the fearfullness of every day
with the power of this small political act of love.
Hotel with a View
Tuesday: I drag myself out of our heavy bed
and hurry to make it to breakfast. It is formal here,
severe as the hidebound chairs and conventions
of hallway tables. I suspect that Monday night leaked in
through some crack in the doubled glass, for our dreams
had a restless tint, something hardly remembered.
Easy to forget in this pleasing sensuality
of coffee, black cherry, cream
but uneasily I notice that winter has sidled up close
to the edges of doors and windows, is looking in
with pale burning eyes.
Under my feet the floor is so warm
that I curl my toes out of my shoes to cuddle
the tropical softness. I have a strong desire
to go down on all fours and snuffle the harsh scent
of this fire-coated creature below me.
I can hear its heartbeat, feel its breath
tremoring the pipes. I am a flea in this tawny-red fur
that rolls away through the corridors.
Outside the river is flecked with white wind
and the mountains are thundering.
The screens are active all day. We sit and stare our way up
all the glens and waterfalls.The view is magnificent.
We are given alternative seasons, and shown the rare
ring-tailed rodents as we listen to Beethoven softening
the cold glass of the walls. All is comfort; at each table
the balm of carnations and lace, pistachios, eau-de-vie.
We are almost silent, lazy and heavy,
lulled here in this room for ever adventuring
out on the clean rocky paths through the larches.
Those who stay for a while, go home with a fine knowledge:
we saw the whitethroated birds and heard them singing.
Also we found ring-tailed rodents and a rare blue gentian.
It is safe still, but hidden; you have to be guided
through hard terrain past feral goats and golden eagles.
There must be others who woke sweating
when the temperature faltered, dropped to zero
and mountain dreams slid through the silk-glove fit
of the scenic glazing, antlers splintering the frames,
spoor discolouring the soft red carpet that lies so still
as if afraid that rain and the rising river
will release the ghosts of salmon out of the weir
where the last one leapt ten years ago.
Rose Flint 2003
These poems are taken from Rose Flint’s new book Nekyia, which is available
for £8.50, post free, from the publishers:
STRIDE, 11 SYLVAN ROAD, EXETER, DEVON EX4 6EW
[Cheques payable to ‘Stride’ please]