The Howling Lesson
Feel the swing of your tail,
the thickness of your coat
rippling across your shoulder blades.
Throw your head back,
let the air rise from your diaphragm.
Hanging from your hyoid bone
your voicebox holds the crawling
breath of three hundred days of waiting.
Summon the vowels of a howl –
aroooo, raaaaa, woooo.
Let the glottis open and absorb
the mud and mist of uncertainty.
Aim your yowl over the trees and hills
so it may carry to the next county,
to your relatives in far off cities,
through the letterboxes of strangers.
Howl with grace and tenderness,
howl with bleached anger,
howl with longing so long
it lasts for three long days.
When your howling ends
it will seep into the soil
and re-emerge as cathedrals.
We gave the same name to a rat
as we did to a giraffe,
a daisy was also a rhododendron.
When we pulled a lemon drizzle cake
out of the oven we called it bara brith.
People walked up and down the street
calling out to their neighbours –
‘Dave’, Lulu’, ‘Marissa’.
It was Frank, Lalia and Shannon
who called back.
Driving was treacherous.
A sign for South Wales also said Honolulu.
The motorways were strewn
with cars in the middle of u-turns.
‘We don’t speak your language,’
said the tea-cups.
‘We don’t understand your implication,’
The police put up cordons
and danced in the spaces between.
From the cellophane on the bandstand
drifted the words ‘beautiful’, ‘comfort’, ‘never’.
That was when the tide turned.
Each word aligned with its meaning
and stayed there,
anchored and hooked like leather to Velcro.
Chrissie Gittins’ poetry collections are Armature (Arc), I’ll Dress One Night As You (Salt) and Sharp Hills (Indigo Dreams). She appeared on BBC Countryfile with her fifth children’s collection, Adder Bluebell, Lobster (Otter-Barry Books). She has received Arts Council and Author’s Foundation awards and features on the Poetry Archive. www.chrissiegittins.co.uk