Home » Issues & Poems » Issue 23 » SUITE: GHOSTS & HAMMERS

SUITE: GHOSTS & HAMMERS

Robert Minhinnick

SUITE: GHOSTS & HAMMERS

1.

 

Make us a bow

of red sycamore

and an arrow

to shoot at the sun.

 

Tell us a story,

a witch in a wood

and two children

who knock on her door…

 

 

2.

 

But the children look back

and see the sand running out

of her. The red grains out. Of her.

 

Down the aisles she goes,

talking to strangers who sometimes talk back.

As if they are all in this together.

 

In it together as down

the aisles, she goes. Down the aisles.

Grapefruit, I see. The yellow, the pink,

 

but what she wants is bread for the birds,

the sliced white, the white sliced.

Not pittas, not muffins but the whiter still,

 

the whole, the half, the white sliced,

the sliced white, this bread for the birds,

batches and cottage loaves,

 

the white sliced, the sliced white.

No bread whiter now. No bread today so white.

Not pittas, not pikelets, flatbreads or sourdough…

 

While the children look back.

And wonder. At the neolithic princess

risen amongst them,

 

the sand running out of her,

the red grains out. Of her.

As the children look back. And wonder.

 

3.

 

We fitted stars

to your mouth

but you tried to cough them out.

 

I am always

going to remember that,

how you hid stars

 

in your cheek or under your tongue,

hoping we wouldn’t guess

they were unswallowed.

 

But those stars were

white full stops

to thought and dreams.

 

I’ve seen

the towers of famine in Glan Rhyd

but try to pretend

 

it’s different now

as we press other stars against your skin

and you cannot feel their light dissolve:

 

miraculous

morphine, its constellation

like the sword

 

of Orion you showed me,

a girl with stargazy

eyes, pointing to brickred

 

Beetlejuice,

its dazzling

azimuth. 

 

No,

never not

unastonished I knew.

 

And that must

have been when

I looked up first. 

 

4.

 

One day you ran for it,

found lodgings and the kindness of strangers

after three bus journeys.

 

But now you’ve lost weight your teeth don’t fit

and Albert’s ashes still wait

behind  the tins of Whiskas.

 

How might we sweep away

the dust

of ourselves?

 

Inheritance?

Your outrage when the man next door

knocked down the martins’ nest.

 

My trajectory since.

You spoke of the one hundred

year old lilac in the hedge

 

with all the mauves

between white and purple,

but they’ve taken a chainsaw

 

to its heart

so instead it’s lovehearts I think of

in the sweetshop at the top of the hill.

 

 5.

 

Every tide leaves

the sea’s exchequer

looted on the sands.

 

Here’s seaglass, white

and green, no edges or

angles but sucked

 

to milk-veined alleys

of vast schoolyard significance.

But that was in another life…

 

6.

 

In the papers she points to the news.

Every page the same, the terrible

pages always the same.

 

Down the aisles she goes, down the aisles.

To turn and ask have I seen

the story. On the terrible pages.

 

That little girl, she says. That little girl…

But now, the insurance, and now the aisles

of white goods. How they gleam,

 

the white goods  in this refrigerator light…

So much money, she says. So much these days.

She who was brought up with, without…

 

Sand at her feet. The grains of red, of purple.

The scattered grains out of the dune,

sand in her eyes, sand around her mouth,

 

but what she wants is bread for the birds,

white bread in the aisles, bread from her hands

crushed into ashes, its paste in her hands,

 

bread and milk for the birds.

Ever hungry, the birds. Ever.

What’s white for the ravens must be white

 

for the swans…

But that little girl, she says.

That little girl. Grapefruit I see. The yellow, the pink…

 

7.

 

Her name spelled wrong

on the door.

But she is used to this.

 

She touches her face

and touches again

as if it’s hard to comprehend

 

her own  blood’s

electricity.

That same volt

 

in the cup and the same volt

in the cordial

and the same volt

in the apparitions that crowd the walls.

 

Sulpuride

might be attar of roses

 – this unpronounceable liquor –  

 

as the world

 – this world –

conspires.

 

Ghost and hammers,

hammers and ghosts.

It’s still the way we do these things.

 

8.

 

Make us a bow

of red sycamore

and an arrow

to shoot at the sun.

 

Tell us a story,

a witch in a wood

and two children

who knock on her door.

 

Laborious, the Latin

you learned, those lists

good only for graves or gods.

What was it for?

 

So make me a bow

of red sycamore

and an arrow

to shoot at the sun.

 

 

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