A halo of hair. A blanket on a chair,
barricade of chatter –
bad news refusing to dissolve
on the tongue.
The overwhelming dread of fear,
struggling to hold the thread of a thought.
Scent of blood-stained air, a python-clot
collapsing, darkly meeting white.
To stand in another’s reality
while remaining in one’s own.
A handkerchief twisted around fingers,
the climb toward a future that cannot be seen.
Shaking hands on the possibility
of trust, the hope of uncertainty.
Nearly there at dawn, overtaken.
Hearing the train’s long whistle.
A frown wiped from his face, life
on the other side of a window.
A dribble of saliva from the mouth,
The body’s tenderness never left alone.
The answer no larger than a grain of barley.
Nothing more than a shrug of shoulders,
a monosyllabic moo.
A stethoscope’s silver silence
in the warm lamp of evening,
eyes closed, eyebrows raised –
the look of working out how to be dead.
A head movement for yes…
Balling a scrap of paper into a pocket,
a toothbrush discarded,
a voice breaking.
The trap of the mind slowly opening,
the heart beating.
Correcting one’s tense –
first step into loss.
Across the counterpane,
spring flowers along the river.
The difficulty of concentrating
A finger moving to lips
withholds the storm.
In the place of tears,
notes that name death
in a hand wide as the sky.
A dream that takes us to the edge
of danger as time runs out –
diving bell below thought.
To notice misdirection, tiptoe
towards a tipping point
awaiting an outcome –
a garden’s scarlet bloom.
A burst that breaks the heart.
The tongue clicks over again. Listen!
Her smile spreading like a soft bruise,
handprints in clay, the sundress
of a cushion cover. Moving the fabric
into place in real time – a reaching
around of arms, a half-full cup
The bony prominence of ankle, knee,
wrist and elbow. A lesson in fragility.
A struggle to steady the voice,
not knowing what to say.
A tenacity of life, curious
as the language of frogs,
their gift, greenly woven.
Morning’s final day,
the arrival of laughter
changing by the moment –
hand over hand, a stillness.
Mist rolling up from the river.
Michael Lee Rattigan is a poet and translator based in Caterham, England. His most recent collection, Hiraeth, was published alongside its French translation in 2016 by Black Herald Press.