At the window.

Cold spring evening light

A still time.

 

I stroke the cat’s head.

Fur swept in to flight

turns lazily in the air.

He watches it sleepily

with golden eyes.

 

At the foot of the graveyard

The sun drops low in the trees.

Its afterimage floats slick on this page

Like an egg yolk.

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Exhumation.

I

Under the lead gray sky
The sharp wind scours them.
The cold of the damp soil
seeps in to their knees as they crouch
and scratch at the earth.

Bones laid naked to the sky.
board, cloth, flesh long ago mulched to mud.
perhaps a rib cage tangled by blind burrowing claws
the only disturbance for almost
an eternity.

Delicately they prise the clayey grip
with gentle fingers,
lift here a thigh, there a pelvis, work free a clavicle,
carefully gather the unfused bones of a stillborn’s skull
like grimy petals.

Eyelessly, hopelessly, we watch them
as they methodically graze on our remains.
They harvest our bones, but we will be here
always.

II

The first of us secured this land
when the infant town still teetered along the strip of shore,
clinging to the sides of the high steep bank.

But the town clambered up
out of the lap of the tide,
stretching itself out above the river mouth,
coagulating prosperously over the fields,
and our living ceased to come.
This place received no more dead.
We were forgotten.

III

And now the clarts* our flesh became, gouged
and crusted over.
The sky that saw our living
commit us to the earth, blotted out.
Brick dams the river breeze
that once stroked the drizzle steeped sod.

*mud (Tyneside dialect)

– originally published in Death Head Grin.