Poet’s Corner

December 11th, 2013

by Pat Winslow

Burly

 

The big man rows out to a place

where we can hardly see him.

 

Frail as a leaf now, he assumes

the position of a horizon.

 

He causes us to look often.

We cannot resist turning our heads.

 

See where the wake widens out to touch us,

where our footprints subside.

 

His eyes were like warm metal.

He was the ballast.

 

So many footprints now.

The winter sun is on our backs.

 

A cold wind has been blowing for weeks.

How we’ve stooped.

 

How we’ve bent to the contours of loss.

It astonishes us how easily

 

we make room for it, how willingly

we adjust. Like a womb or a cave.

 

It fits perfectly inside the rib cage.

How strong and burly grief is.

from Unpredictable Geometry – Templar Poetry, 2008

 

 

It’s Not God

 

It’s the smell of fallen apples and crushed nettles,

the way summer turns to rust overnight.

 

It’s the platinum drift of clouds heaving themselves

onto fields of potatoes one afternoon,

 

or a feather pointing like an arrow down the road,

how birds balance in the wind,

 

how leaves press their photographic selves

into wet paving stones.

 

It’s the silence of churches

and ink drying on the page,

 

the way people look when they shake hands,

tell the truth, hold the phone,

 

how a dog is when it’s about to die.

It’s about warnings and harvests.

 

Mostly, it’s about you.

from Skin & Dust – Blinking Eye, 2004


 

Scattering Ashes

                                                                   

It could almost be a Jack Vettriano painting,

you three on a Sussex beach casting slanting

shadows in the corrugated sand, the shallow

channels of water like platen glass, a blue

sky, fawn jackets, grey and cream trousers

reflecting in them, but for your step-father’s

sudden astonished gasp because a breeze

has come to lift the brim of his hat and seize

it, sending it scuttling and cart-wheeling

before him. He staggers around, flailing

his arms trying to catch it. He gets a touch

but it’s off again. He makes a sudden lurch

and grabs it, dusts it and looks up at you.

You notice the sea has wet his shoe.

Later, there will be a line of brine on it.

But now he’s putting his new straw hat

back squarely on his head and the sun is

winking like peppermints off his lenses

so you can’t see his eyes and your mother

says your sister would have found it rather

funny just now, wouldn’t she, in fact I can

just hear her beery laugh, can’t you? No, in

fact, you can’t. What you hear is radio

interference, bubbling voices just below

the surface, too many stations jammed

together in a high frequency waveband

and once again, the silence, that absolute

core you crave so much, is cancelled out.

The tide has turned, you want to say. Look

how far the sea is. Let’s stop and rest, take

some time to measure what’s been left,

the strange shapes a leaving makes, the gift

of grief which is not an obedient dog or child

or something to beat to a corner and scold.

Look. The ashes are refusing to disappear.

They keep blowing back in your face and hair.

They’re in the crosshatched years of your skin.

They’re in the ocean. They’re in the wind.

from Kissing Bones – Templar Poetry, 2013