for the swimmers

                                               for E

Oh and I want to spill to you all the secrets of my fishy

heart and tell you my damage and let you see what it’s done

to me, so you can smile and take me by the hand

 

echo my chlorine rinse, swimming in the same water as me

and tell me it’s ok, so that I want, what I always want,

which is to kiss you on your lovely mouth and walk

 

with you arm in arm, goggle eyed and wincing

in the cold, so we go into a candlelit bar and order sloe gin

and let it slip down inside us, feeling the warmth

 

spreading into us, steaming our wet locks of hair and we talk

in low voices and giggle and grab hold and walk out into the snow

of each other’s hearts, throwing handfuls of pain at each other

 

but it doesn’t matter at all because there’s no work tomorrow

or if there is, we’re gonna call in sick, so we can float home

together and talk all night and lie down sobbing

 

in each other’s arms and everything will be ok

and not a bit awkward in the morning... not a bit awkward,

when I make you breakfast you don’t want and we’re drinking

 

coffee instead, and a hangover cure idea seizes hold of me

and then we’re downing salted fried egg sandwiches with salsa

and cheese and catching each other’s eyes and laughing

 

at the world that can’t understand us because we refuse

to conform to the niceties asked of us and we laugh

and laugh at the phone, because it won’t stop ringing

 

and we know who it is, it’s your boss chasing you for sex...

 

which suddenly isn’t very funny actually when it turns out

he’s been harassing you and I want to turn back the clock

and unsay some of the things we’ve been saying to each other

 

in case we’ve actually only imagined being understood

and in turning back the clock I could say to you the things

I really want to say that usually stay locked up inside my head

 

filling a swimming pool sized lake in my mind with blue

lagoonary, visions of summer days we’ve never known, by the lido

by the lido, I am awash with my dreams with you in my arms

 

and I want to sit down in the park and plait daisies into your hair

like I did with my friends when I was that young, when we were

five or six years old and could giggle all day long for the sheer

 

pleasure of being together when your best friend made you feel

light and dizzy and jellylegs and cared for and fizzy

like you ate a bellyful of sherbet, or packets and packets

 

of refreshers and parma violets, remember being that giggly

with sugar rush, with fierce love, like you are five or seven again...

except, I was never that child. Too serious.

 

Kids that experience trauma early on miss the giggly stage.

What they do instead is watch. Learn to swim. Observe.

And this un-nerves everyone. So they learn to imitate.

 

Good little fish in a little glass pool, swimming with content.

Mimic a good time, and carry their damage lightly, as lightly,

as they possibly can.


Does the Rain Sound Different Where You Are?

On Friday last it rained rose petals

for almost an hour. A band of irate

florists from across the city beat a path

to our door, first remonstrating,

then wringing their hands

in consternation and putting up the prices

of all their red tinged carnations.

 

Because, and their thought was mine

– Brother! Is this you?

 

His big idea, a shit storm of romance

coming at you, the city, all general,

reel them in, commercially speaking,

keep the branding on message,

but make them stay, for a spirit of hope,

there’s a special someone out there for you too...

 

But he overeggs his hackneyed romantic gesture.

 

Any fool could have told him,

had he been willing to consult, but his thought is,

where, surely, if twelve red roses are good,

twelve hundred thousand stolen red roses must be better?

 

Entrepreneurial! Was our parents’ thought,

when they heard, and clapped him on the back

and then it’s all, well,

why can’t you be more like your brother...

 

Oh God! Men... with their... their singing

up at your balcony hey la... and delivering

Milk Tray and Gold Blend... or whatever

is the cool and correct brand these days,

Starbucks and Swiss, Charbonnel and Walker,

your local hipster roasts...

 

but... it’s simply an act, laid on for the great construction,

the sky, this Earth, some welter weight commercial demon,

some God even, come to call, a Fortean event,

heralding a change... some storm, all I could think was:

 

Brother! Is this you, at your tricks again?

Your Saint’s Day round the corner and no small angel

to quiver with instruction and aim that damned arrow...

Why, where is your quiver full of arrows now?

Safe in my closet, that, I can swear to.

 

That sickness that touches the rose,

will not touch me. I leave that for other sisters

and another time... but then I had not expected

such silence to fall across angel language,

a unique code, no, my brother, I have been

burned before.I once knew a time

when all the love songs made sense too.

 

Given a backwards glancing daydream

it’s a long way from give me your lovesick,

your heart-sore, wounded and woebegone

and what do we promise them anyway?

To light them up for one night a year

with a well aimed arrow?

 

I have these futures markets, and see, like a globe,

set a crystal planet, turning as the stars themselves...

but I can only tell time like Cassandra, poor fool...

Oh, I see now, his lady, why, she promised him

the light of her eyes but will say she promised him,

nothing,

when the neighbourly rich doctor makes his proposal.

 

So, save your arrows, brother. Save your arrows.

 

Another calls, she falls, spends her value

and cries out, desperate to make contact

with another on this night, of any night, this night,

she should be able to lose herself

in another human soul,

is that not the sense of it now?

 

Yet she will cry alone and pleading,

in the whole drunk night ballet,

asking over and over down the twisted

telephone lines, does the rain sound different,

where you are? And in the morning,

won’t you be there? Won’t you run your hand,

cool and restless, through my hangover?

 

Unless I was quite mistaken

with your character... and she searches out her

knickers in a tangle of sheet for shame,

for shame to be so... so... de-constructed!

 

And him set a star, so bright... even stars, fall, in the end...


The Grief Stone

There’s no reflection in the cool, blue stone, handed

over, funeral by funeral, just so much seasick motion

 

to set sway above each gravity centre. If we could

only see to tell the story but we polish our faces until

 

bee-stung and the salt rendered mirrors are moony

with dreaming. So like our grandmothers’ fierce pride

 

in their steps, scrubbed until gleaming, as they set out

in grim to shine stone, blue pendant swinging. The gem

 

knows now, as we do, all the men of our family are

dead and there will be no more. Barren fields start

 

decay early and there’s no reflected light at all,

dull little pool of stopped animation, nothing rife,

 

no movement, no teeming water, no lilt alike

the constant ocean, our line is ending, and I am the last,

 

the last to wear the blue hanging heart, the lapis lazuli.


Sarah Wallis is a poet and playwright based in Leeds, West Yorkshire, UK. She has an MA in Creative Writing from UEA and has been published in many various journals including Valve and the Yorkshire Poetry Anthology. Her latest play When God Was a Woman played on the Leeds Fringe in the summer and a reading of Laridae, developed and supported by Furnace at West Yorkshire Playhouse, helped to kickstart the Leeds Theatre Pub scene this autumn.