Here are my hands, outstretched for your bare feet
so that each step of your path through darkness
and gravel bits splintered with thorns will meet
uncalloused palms of moccasin softness.
This is your extraordinary journey
beyond mapped landscape and into unknowns
but my knuckles will jigsaw rocks like keys
filling locks to smooth roughness for your soles.
My hands will be luminous with love light
anticipating your transformation,
pulsating warmth for this your longest night
when each footstep is a destination.
Although you are alone you’re not alone,
I’m reaching out my hands as stepping-stones.
I search shorelines at low tide
for portals that open time
to the pip of it.
Fingers like a blind man’s
on stones, periwinkles, chainies,
and drops of smooth blue-glass on sand.
I trace cat-gut through seaweed
to hidden hooks on feathers,
German baits, spoons and spinners.
Each rock a prayer bead
in the litany of belonging.
Pock-air, Connigeer, Shollister, Claim.
The graveyard was January grey and cold.
Dad was crying. I’d never seen him cry before.
Strangers spilled over mounds and dips,
around jaded headstones that tilted towards sleep.
Grandad was lying in a fresh coffin
with brassy handles that glinted like baubles.
I stood in my little girl knees at the frontline
by the open hole that gasped for closure.
A priest’s ragged voice led the chorus of mourners
in prayers that lifted up into the sky like birds.
Men used ropes to slowly lower the coffin
till it was anchored deep and still on the black.
Some one of them broke the shadowy silence
with the thud of a shovelful of clay on wood.
Nanna turned her back, took broken steps away,
my two sisters at her sides like crutches.
There would be worms now on Grandad’s face and clothes,
wriggling over his eyelids, into his ears, up his nose.
Afterwards, in a carful of adults who laughed and told stories,
I stared at the hedges so the whole world blurred green.
The Music of Stones
We tuned ourselves to skylark song and searched
the skies all summer for their high hovering spots
where birds trilled like semi-quavers
in the unlined stave of a hot blue sky.
We paused to stare, enthralled by dives that spliced
our days. Then satisfied we’d amble on
through sunburnt fields beside the sea towards
the lighthouse, stopping at the next birdsong.
All summer that summer we spied on skylarks,
climbed cliffs, found caves, swam skinny dips
and lay naked on reclusive sandy beaches
where you taught me that even stones can sing.
No Looking Back
Sometimes you’ve got to leave behind a place
you’ve loved since tumbling into time and go
for good, that is forever, go goodbye
without a looking back like Lot’s wife did
and died from turning, turning into salt
still standing, white dissolving in the rain
The Music of Stones and other poems are © Colette Colfer