I remember the nights we spent up on the barn roof:
late July, combines out in the valley to the south,
horizon green as an aquarium along its western edge.
I lay on my back and dipped my fingers into the blue air
while he sat throwing stones down into the empty cowsheds.
That was enough for me— to feel the corrugated roof
shudder under each throw, taking the sound into itself,
coming back into silence again. I had the whole valley,
the white arm of The Milky Way stretched overhead,
the stones he threw ringing inside me one-by-one.
Years later, I drive home under skies rinsed clean by rain,
the wet air cools, gives itself back to the sky as clouds
but I can’t tell if those are stars coming out now
or just lights from airplanes descending into Heathrow.
After exhausting the timber-framed houses
the wildfire reaches the vineyard.
In my garden an October bee
enters and re-enters honeysuckle.
I wear short sleeves and bring home tubs
of cheap yellow ice cream—
it’s a thrill to watch the world burn up
field by American field on my TV
far off and inevitable, to let the ice cream
sit out all afternoon and spoil
because I want it to spoil, a relief
to know finally this is who I am—
who you are too, under the good people
we pretended to be.
On my TV a woman
with square white teeth
says it takes three years
for skin to regenerate totally.
I think about my tulips, how
they’ve pushed new heads
up and out of the same bulbs
last spring and this spring, too.
What a joy it is to know
that next year you will never
have touched me.
Mariah is a poet and teacher from Oxford. Her novel-in-sonnets the love i do to you won the AM Heath Prize and was an Oxford Poetry Library Book of the Month. Her pamphlet Michael, a book-length poem that takes the form of a playscript, was published by Broken Sleep in 2022. She is a co-founder and co-editor of bath magg.