Swamp

What a wild eye of water coved in by trees.
Hours at a time you squatted in mud,
sieving the tiny mangroves of the surface.

Usually the catch was skidding water
boatmen and dowsed red beetles,

but once a dead toad bulged against the net
like a misdesigned trapeze artist.

Returned to those woods now, the leaves
fluttering gill-like with light,
you feel the air chafing your face.

The pond has iced over. You step on;
it fails to break. Hungry birds

must be gathering in boughs, you think,
cold and empty flasks.

Toads must be sinking into flowerpots,
making a saviour of sleep. And you?
You are a dragonfly that has lived too long.
 



 
Two Staircases


The cat stops clawing the riddled support beam,
throws a couple of coins, her eyes, from the landing.

Through the window at the bottom of the stairs:
a slice of stars - perhaps a gang of alleycats

turned angels. Dogwood trembles at the pane.
Her ears are two spikes on a heart monitor.

A groan from the unformed gloom: someone treading
onto the tiny sleeping bear of the bottom step.

Silence. The sky is looked at. The sky looks down.
Another step squeaks; she folds herself into one muscle.

No rodent emerges. Nothing for some time except
a slow patter from the adjoining corridor,

an amnesia of craneflies dabbling with pyrotechnics
next to a low open bulb. The night is a bat
and you are its elsewhere, its meat-by-sonar.
Miles away. A cup of tea slops in your hand

as you climb the staircase, steady, steady,
and drop the mug at the scratch of a rake above.
 




The Wound


One slip with the shears; your palm
grins up from the sink where the tap's
endless tongue is intent
on a French kiss. The plughole gurgles.

You were standing on the paving slab,
snipping privet away in clumps.
The stone wobbled, clinked,
and you remembered the well underneath,

the dank tunnel you disinterred
years ago for a peek at the drop's
glimmer of water, and to draw
a half-glass of its foetid drink.

From here, it looks as if you've cut
a winking face into the hedge
eyes, nose, a hint of ears,
the slab's O of mock surprise.





Narcissus

 
Dear Lord   what is light
if not form   love if not light?
 
At wood's edges a muntjac nudges free
   of the sun
                   into the slant pupils of trees.
  But no annihilation of self.
   
                                           Dear Lord
   I am wary of water  my wrists stigmata
the treacle of pines.
                              I am wary of rain's
goldrush into fields.
                               I scoop scattered teeth.
  They always fall out.
                                  Rain always falls out
of the mud's horizon.
 
                            No annihilation of self. No
use looking in mirrors
                                   for loved ones
               looking in ice
  under false pretences.
                                              Look
  the well imprisons the clouds.
                                              Look
at the aura of buttercups
                                      nuzzling the chin.
Dear Lord   how did I see
in the stomped puddle   and
  what did I see?
                           You surprised
                           You butter-loving
                           You building a shrine
 
of flowers and burning it    hopeful.

 
         James Midgley 2007