Song of the Salt Breeze, poems by Jane Lovell
Jane Lovell has been widely published in journals and anthologies. She won the Flambard Prize in 2015 and has been shortlisted for several awards including the Basil Bunting Prize, the Robert Graves Prize and the Periplum Book Award. Recent pamphlets include One Tree by Night River Wood; Metastatic by Against the Grain Poetry Press; and Forbidden, a limited edition portfolio from Coast to Coast to Coast. Her latest collection, This Tilting Earth, is published by Seren. Jane is the Poetry Society Stanza rep for Mid Kent. She has recently won the Wealden Literary Festival Writing Prize, the Terrain.org Poetry Contest, the Wigtown Poetry Prize and the Mslexia Pamphlet Prize. More information can be found at https://janelovell128.wixsite.com/janelovellpoetry
In the dim kitchen
your fingers knead and pull the dough,
flour smudges the yellow light
of your cheek and chin,
poppy seeds escape across the table
disappear onto the tiles.
Red-eyed herring sprawl on the drainer,
flat and finless, silver.
The knife slits, scrapes out the clotted
strings of skin, viscera.
A worm-tangle of black vessels
on quaggy newsprint,
the bloody slip ferments
Liquor of fruit broods over must.
Bruised pulp smears the neck plugged
to protect from the crawl
of vinegar flies
fat and desperate with eggs.
The oven hums.
Yeast creams in a jar.
I measure sugar, boil the kettle, kneel
to mash the blackberries.
Juice stains my fingers, blackens my nails,
the sweetness bewildering against
Song of the Salt Breeze
High above the windy town,
its mudflats pinned by pier and promenade,
shimmering in and out of dream
they wait for me, Rosa, Elsie and Irene,
their hollow bones thin as reeds
piped by the salt breeze, its mouth humming,
humming over the curling and uncurling fingers,
cuttled ribs, those proud cheekbones;
teasing their crimped hair; swifting over
the glass-green of their song:
the song of ghosts, the song of their lives
spun and woven from the changing light.
I skip about between rags of marigold
and buffeted firs, chasing scraps of history
along the path, the wind unwrapping
long-gone milk-light, ash-light.
Way down on the beach, distant and patient,
woolly heads dipped at the gusting sand:
Sadie, Millie, Lady and Celeste.
I long for them, for my thin legs against the saddle.
Salt breeze, blow me like a leaf down the paths,
over railings and gardens, all the way down,
down, till my toes dig again into cold damp sand
and I balance like an angel against you.
And there he is
kneeling beside a bucket,
fists clenched in fur until
the useless claws, light as a bird’s,
an eclipse, a dark lens in a swift sky.
Alone in his lab sifting petri dishes,
a haze of phenol in his clothes.
A scimitar of light.
He pushes the microscope
Sperm-wiggle of nastiness stranded
in bright grease; I hold my breath.
The hand that held the kittens
in cowardly collusion.
I never forgave them, those fingers
now too weak to stir tea.
Night dissolves him.
He crosses the garden, roots to find
a foothold in a shifting landscape,
a world that cannot wait.
I watch his puppet limbs
describe the universe,
with each step flinging away
arcs of light
across the billowing lawn,
the titanic darkness.
I hear him breathe,
breathe those words:
I want to go first.
Your garden thrives in neglect.
The peony has never looked so good, so vibrant;
her blooms loll like woozy ladies on a lawn
brilliant with lipstick and scandal.
Finches steal discarded cocktail sticks,
appear upon the wire, beaks stumped with olives.
Blackbirds stitch a path into the bushes
clutching bright worms of pimento.
Dandelions secure the lawn,
stop it flapping to reveal the wool
of root fibre, scurrying ants.
You left this afternoon, wrapped in blankets.
The rooms next door buzzed briefly then fell silent.
Within the hour, bedclothes appeared on the line,
caught the May wind in a flurry of lemon and lace,
waved you a final goodbye.
© Jane Lovell