I watch this woman:
she is not dressed for the occasion,
still in her pyjamas, bare feet
which leave half-moons floating
behind her, along a lake of corridor.
She watches from the end of
the hospital bed, where
her mother holds her father’s
hand. He asks again, “Are they not coming?”
I watch this woman. It is almost
enough. The nurses pay no attention
to her, and she cannot change
what happens next, but sits
at the end of time, black blood
rising, knowing what it is to drown.
Winter trees are blank versions
of themselves, linocuts against
cardboard, grainy with yet more
rain. I’ve lost warmth of music
spun in a cocoon of sunlight –
I know the murder will stay close,
crow-caws are shredded ribbons,
flayed skin, salt-crusted psalms
of the godless, circling in this too
lonely a place. Songbirds are far,
carrying a tremble of notes
too beautiful to remember –
I dream of one resting in my hand,
splint-boned, lighter than a matchbox,
brimful with African heat –
How the moon lives in the lining of her skin
(Robin Hood’s Bay)
A walk at bedtime on a moon-fretted beach,
idling early, time runs through our hair.
It hangs, a fuzz-full dandelion, each
floating seed hinting pink. The bay is too fair
to try to catch with words – our footprints,
I know, will be washed away by morning.
This beach. This moon. So many poems have dreamt
a lesson in her tidepool beauty, of soaring
to that jar full of hibiscus syrup
that blooms brighter than champagne in glass –
my daughter runs through rock pools, ripples hiccup
her smooth reflection into a stuttered past.
A six-year-old studies pawprints, does not look up,
the moon for her is only a chipped teacup.
Sixth form assembly in the hall
(For Jo Ricketts)
Some lean against the stage
in borrowed Topshop jackets,
a rushed PowerPoint just finished
that will not last long enough.
Behind them, the back wall
hides decades of school plays:
Polly Garter, Haroun, Ashgirl,
Bloody Macbeth, the ghost of
Miss Kane on her step ladder.
Windows shrug and whine,
a rattling nudge against cracked
putty that has heard it all before –
they are mirrors of cloud, so
crows fly into their trick, a crash
of blue skies, feather and broken necks –
1950s gym equipment seems
ridiculous: students slump on
plastic chairs, phones throbbing
in their pockets, so very far from
plimsolls and Latin and star jumps.
I watch their narrow shoulders,
straightened hair, eyebrows
like One-Act plays, while my list
of jobs struggles in my arms –
The paint of the day has not dried
yet but they think there is always
tomorrow and tomorrow –
time a hurried envelope
they will leave stuffed
in the bottom of their school bags,
not realising their glass
is already half
Maybe it’s like this:
your life is a page torn
from a book that someone
borrowed from the library
and forgot to take back.
Maybe the empty shelves
are there for a reason,
a Dewey Decimal system
of loneliness that you’ve
mastered in 8:2:1.
Maybe a heart can be
pressed between sheaves
of paper, leaves lopsided
and sliding under their own
silence, that one day you can
just let fall –
you’ve ever learnt will be
written on a stranger’s
face, sitting across
the desk, reading a book
you recognise because
it has a page missing,
the ragged edges of his smile
match your well-read spine.
Maybe, it’s like this.
Olga Dermott-Bond is originally from Northern Ireland and lives in Warwickshire. She has had poetry and flash fiction published in a wide range of magazines. She was the winner of the BBC Proms poetry competition in 2019 and selected as one of the emerging poets for the podcast Bedtime Stories for the End of the World. Her first pamphlet apple, fallen was published by Against the Grain Press in 2020. She is a teacher and has two daughters. @olgadermott
Read more of Olga here.