Guest poem

WEDNESDAY POEM

Swan

We live on a river in the country,
we talk gently and listen easy,
we lost our smoky bark and city hiss.
You’ll play me the guitar, whilst I knead dough.
I make enough bread to feed the ten sons
we never made time to have.
You get under my feet when I ask you to
whisk the milk. Stir the gravy. Mind the oven.
We never agree about the temperature, maps and train time tables.
 
You hold the pegs whilst I hang the washing,
on the line hung between low-hanging crab-apple trees.
Our ramshackle garden is overgrown
and there are spiders in the lavender.
The radio plays the shipping forecast.
It’s getting cold. Cold enough to snow.
No. Not yet.
 
A skein of geese flocked overhead,
but you and me, we never migrated apart.
Together we become weathered
and soft as old cotton and as yellow as warm butter.
We keep chickens and ducks that rarely lay eggs,
an obnoxious mallard nests like royalty
in an armchair in the parlour.
 
Of course we brew our own beer
and we grow grass and tomatoes in the conservatory.
Laughter. Yes, we still laugh,
the lines are etched around our failing eyes.
Foam and lathered we bathe together too,
and play cards and drink rum and dare each other to
skinny-dip in the lake by the weeping willow when the moon is high.
 
Books are precariously balanced on slanting shelves
and guitars are in varying states of loving repair.
Boxes of dusty poetry and newspaper cuttings clutter the stairs.
And the piano has a few keys missing,
like teeth and the scissors and your spectacles –
they are on your head, you nincompoop!
 
We’ve collected empty Marmite jars for no reason,
no reason at all.
 
We get tired, we go to bed, have sex in the afternoon.
Snow flutters like feathers past the frosty winter windows.
Face to face, we lie on the cool side of the pillow,
wrapped in each other’s arms like two monkeys.
My fingers play with the silver hair at your temples,
you stroke my face and I breathe slowly.
Jigsaw pieces.
We always did fit nicely.
 
You call me in my dreams at night.
I’ve felt your plush wings
spread wide, enveloping me.
You and me, we will have all this and more,
we will have all this in time.
I have known you all my life.
We will find each other
one day,
my swan.

by Salena Godden
from  Fishing in the Aftermath: Poems 1994 – 2014
Burning Eye Books, Portishead, 2014

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