after February by Margaret Atwood
Winter is a inhumation— the skeletons of trees
hide no secrets, flies go into retreat, no longer
diver bombers buzzing the lampshade. We fill
our cheeks with cheese and wine and slavers
of goose fat falling in little storms of white flesh.
The dogs brood over what should be theirs.
The dogs hover for fat, bold fur-sacks undefining
their blankets as voices from nowhere ambush them.
The shrill rattle of foxes mock their warm confinement,
raiding the thrown out corpses for the dustmen to pickup,
they ask no questions of us. Wrangling out of the duvet’s
cocoon by the dog needing a piss, he convulses in Vogue
dance moves to be let out into the frail morning. Christmas
is popped like an amphetamine, the goose’s arsehole stuffed
with sage and onion, the potatoes pleated with dripping.
And my mood alters with x-rated thoughts of pink mouthed
homicide, a combine mouth harvests the why of chocolate
and the wherefore nothingness from under the duvet,
a sedative from thoughts of murder. The labour of company
gives a pearly nostalgia for the future. I feel no kinship
for the fireworks of New Year’s gunpowder as time pours
through all things, bouquets of Auld Lang Syne sung
with trembling nostrils. February is winter’s saboteur,
it breathes rapidly, inscribed with beginnings. Spring is
bilingual, is a steadfast machine of transformation, is a
sequinned snake charmer shaking its hips, is a balled sun
made concrete in a sky of marbles as the frugality of winter
recedes beneath splits of orange light. Let spring be spoken
of gallantly while winter’s veiled creature, the skull beneath
the year’s skin, is bottled tightly. Beginnings pass us by, the road
is filled with schoolgirl actresses, their need clogs the airwaves,
they advertise by jawing soliloquy’s bris regret. Nowadays, schoolgirls
are translucent, uncertain, as are the schoolboys at their heels,
a pandemonium of nothingness passes in April’s still-frame street.
Breathe to Breathe
after Grass by Carl Sandburg
We sat on the grass under the belly
of the moon, down flat on our backs
beneath the shorn lightning tree
glittering with cosmonaut silver strips
hung from its branches. We shared a deep
indigo kiss, swapping our clamour of nerves
and our conjoined teenage hormones
before the lethargic windmill of still days’
revolutions came and your voice became
tinnitus in my ears. Breathe to breathe
we looked not to a future but to the ceaseless
now, contracted in the long, dark bluebells.
Our wildlife of hands locked, an asphyxiated
night singing a coarse, agnostic hymn. Closed
eyed I will ingest your fragilities, I whispered,
if you’ll gather up my disagreeable personality
in a plastic bag, before your joints turn
to scarecrows. We smoked atrocious joints
that tasted like licking a Tube train’s floor.
The matchsticks burnt like tigers
as I held them till they smoked on my flesh.
The summer’s humid air was heavy weighted
with operatic lavender and honeysuckle—
balloons keeping the Devil at bay.
Across the way the fair lights danced, thick
as resin, I imagined a seraph fastened
to the Ferris wheel, her veins were a heart
of shivering beggars, were the veiled heart
of our child we then didn’t know was inside
of your delicate frame, soon to hold us
in a chokehold of stubborn domestication.
I want to lengthen our time in that night,
when seraphs hung round our heads, when
gravity was a feather, when we chose the length
of time. Now, entropy clings in our windpipes
and I shall devolve into a cardigan of tweed.
Grant Tarbard is the author of Rosary of Ghosts (Indigo Dreams). His new pamphlet This is the Carousel Mother Warned You About (Three Drops Press) and new collection dog (Gatehouse Press) will be out this year.