(for Brendan Cleary)
With both arms skyward, calling my name -
that’s how you said farewell at Chelmsford.
I blew you a kiss across cold station tracks,
having shared your stage that night
and afterwards, at the bar, you’d told me
about the importance of white space
in a poem, how you’d been workin’ on the white spaces
and I’d looked at you with serious eyes
until you sipped at your bottle, raised a wry brow.
Everything was back in the day,
the days of my teens - you so unknown to me
but poetry starting to show itself; a new fissure
beneath my skull. I had to wait till I was forty
to see your splendid hat. Wait till then
to see you dance a little in the spotlight,
the audience leaning for your verbal yield.
You laughed until carriages swallowed you up,
your track heading to the Channel, mine
to a chalk river. Waters with their respective
histories of trade – carriers of wheat and stone –
but this night we brought poems,
small cargoes ferried in our mouths.
The Inuit Experiment
The priests and teachers came, collected them like shells
from a foreign place. Aged seven, they stepped onto
Copenhagen harbor to be quarantined, in case of lice.
They went to school, learned to knit. Little Danes
circling the Queen of Denmark, but not telling how they
cried at night. How they dreamt of a mother’s voice it’s beautiful,
like Paradise, don’t be sad. Eighteen months to return them,
dock them at Nuuk, the shape of family waiting. They ran.
Jumping up and down, pulling at arms, their Danish words
drumming adult ears like peculiar music. Mothers crouched
but shook their heads. Children raised their fingers
to a mother’s upper lip, her breath on their palms as they pushed
her mouth apart, searching for her cry, their lost tongue.
The fit of my gym skirt, its drop
from my androgynous waist.
How I tucked in white Aertex.
My ponytail’s regular swing
as I jogged to the track. No athlete,
just some freak aptitude for tackling
those upright frames with eager grace.
Each barrier a split-second encounter,
my legs scissoring clear, the bolt to the next one
and the next. 100 metres into future,
my body sprung and briefly making sense.
Rebecca Goss is the author of three collections and two pamphlets. Her second collection, Her Birth, (Carcanet 2013) was shortlisted for the 2013 Forward Prize for Best Collection, the 2015 Warwick Prize for Writing and the 2015 Portico Prize for Literature. Twitter: https://twitter.com/gosspoems Website:https://rebeccagoss.wordpress.com