forgetfulness

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Forgetfulness
Vicki Feaver

When my memory
was a film library
with a keen curator

who knew precisely
where to find clips
of every word

I wished unsaid,
or deed undone,
to play back to me

on sleepless nights,
I’d have welcomed her
muddling the reels.

But now the curator’s
retired, the ordered
shelves are in chaos.

I roam the racks
without a guide
searching for scenes

I’ve lost. Sometimes,
unable to remember
what I’m searching for,

I find Forgetfulness
kneeling on the floor –
an old woman, pale

and worried as a ghost,
rummaging in a tangle
of shiny black ribbons.

Photo by Denise Jans on Unsplash

snow queen

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Snow Queen
Vicki Feaver

I’d melt in your houses.
I hide in blue shadows –
appearing only at night:

a bride in a glittering veil,
pale and shining
as if lit from inside.

You offer me a snowman:
a frozen dummy
with eyes of coal.

But I want a husband
with a heart in my bed,
who’ll lie with me

where the snow’s blown
layer on layer like petals,
drifting to sleep in a heat

like hot sand, like ashes,
the water in his blood
turning to crystals of ice.

Photo by Tobias Keller on Unsplash

swimming in january

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Swimming in January
Vicki Feaver
Because, like every new lover,
I want to enter the underworld
and take you with me, I lead you
into the sea in January – naked into a sea
that flows round our calves and knees
like green fire: deeper and deeper –
feet off the shingle now – gulping half air,
half salt-water, drifting almost to the edge
where there’s no returning
before we strike back
to the beach – past windsurfers
sealed in rubber wet-suits, struggling
to lift orange sails, past wading birds
dipping yellow beaks into a film
of mirrored cloud – emerge,
white legs moving like sticks over
oil-blackened sand, at the breakwater
where we draped clothes and towels,
rubbing each other back to life.

Photo by petradr on Unsplash

riddle

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Riddle
Vicki Feaver
Without you, I prefer the nights:
the darkness inside me

like the darkness around. All day
I am alone with my emptiness:

a white space, with nothing to feed it
but light and shadow.

My claw feet can’t follow you.
I have no voice to call you.

I only know you are near by scents-
orange oil, or lavender – and by a heat

that creeps up my cold skin
and tells me I will feel again

the weight of your body. You have no idea
how wonderful it is to hold you,

to have you lie so still, so happy.
When you move, I hear a whoosh

and you touch me in so many places
I’m trembling and tingling.

It’s spoiled by fear of your going.
Sometimes, I pretend I’m a cradle

for you to sleep in – but you always wake;
or a womb – but you still escape,

leaping out and leaving me.
So next time you come, I’ll be a coffin

filled with chilling water
in which you will stay for ever.

right hand

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Right Hand
Vicki Feaver
Ever since, in an act of reckless
middle-age, I broke my wrist
learning to skate, my right hand

refuses to sleep with me.
It performs the day’s tasks
stiffly, stoically; but at night

slides out from the duvet
to hollow a nest in the pillow
like an animal gone to ground

in a hole in the hedge
whose instinct says have nothing
to do with heart, lungs, legs,

the dangerous head. I dreamed of gliding
through a Breughel winter;
of sitting in smoky inns

drinking burning geneva.
My hand dreams its own dream
of escaping: a waving weed rooted

in a pool so icy and numbing
I can feel its ache
rising up my arm.

Photo by Mat Reding on Unsplash

the earth’s throat

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Gorge
Vicki Feaver
This is the earth’s throat.
When we shout, it shouts back.
It only has to wait to eat:

boys hurling stones
over the precipice, poised
as if a breath

could topple them
into the abyss; a girl
laid fainting on the ledge.

A cyclist passes, wheels
inches from a lip
crumbling like biscuit.

You hug the rock-wall,
grasping at ferns
sprouting wherever water

has trickled into crevices.
I walk behind you, repeating
the psalm: Thy rod and staff

comfort me… though I walk
through the valley
of the shadow of death…

I don’t know why we’re here:
why we didn’t turn back
at the first bend where the path
seemed to travel into air;
why we’re honeymooning
in mountains at all;

unless we’ve slipped
through the crust of the earth
and arrived in a circle of hell

and this is the punishment
for coming to the end of love
and daring to love again:

to walk along a path
cut into soft red rock
high on the wall of a gorge

in a dance where the caller cries
two steps to the left,
a little push
.

Photo by Holger Link on Unsplash

skin

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Skin
Vicki Feaver
-for Alasdair
You watch me rub Vaseline
into my elbows’
scaly armour.
The skin, you explain,
is of the same embryonic
tissue as the brain:
you read in your patients’
rashes and brushes
an uncensored text.
With you it’s your knees:
weeping blisters drying
to a hard red crust.
Another million years
and our soft surfaces
could have toughened
into clattering shells-
we could mate like tortoises,
be impervious to love.