by Noel Williams
A slow approach to Turner in the corner of the gallery
This hull emerges dazzling
in the blue blaze of air, breaks through
a pulse of sun, emptying light
through a lancet of bulwark and bow.
That baulk of sky, concrete grey,
caulked with a knife of white gold
blurs in a trailing haze
which might be a tree but floats
like a creature from Lovecraft over wet scree.
Behind it the cliff unfolds
drops the shawl of water crease by crease
in a tumult of tumbling brushstrokes.
On the back-side of the canvas I try
to find any clue, peer though this,
search out a hint behind the lines.
Scuffed prints of oiled hands. A turpentine kiss.
Skydiving over Machu Picchu
Stripped by the tumble dryer of the wind
tossing everything away, except delight
of fear in a friendless, birdless sky,
flat against gravity, the world doesn’t move
and I am not falling.
Below me clouds fumble comfort
until, when I drop absolutely into their embrace
they spread desire-thin, ghost-kisses.
At once I’m through and there –
there is the impossible city of my long imagining
in free fall towards me. Viracocha, sea-foam god.
I fill all horizons so the worship of these walls
stretches up to me, my prodigal home.
Then the silk snatches me
as if I start breathing again
and snap back to the world,
elbows on the desk,
spreadsheet unfolding like the doors of a Cessna
over the sulking city.
I’m peering in the bleak green excess
that sprawls from pot to pot across our yard,
the fallen clematis, the sprawling
infiltration of nextdoor’s tendrilled tomatoes,
wondering what we need to do for flowers.
Only geraniums strut this unwatered earth.
Pouting in leafery, lipsticked among snailshells.
They fend off slugs and you, my love,
an equation you’re not pleased by,
shy behind kitchen glass,
eyeing the brazen flirts.
In his album he’d pictured each stage of its building:
concrete laid, bricks squared,
hills framed in the dormer,
glass snapped for the greenhouse
behind the drills he’d seeded where
shading her eyes, my mother bound her hair.
Now I’m back with my hardhat and hammer –
he’d only changed the gate, planted
a plastic canoe with geraniums
where the greenhouse fell.
As the wrecking ball swings, as the cellar door buckles,
I smell paraffin, acetone, fixer:
the darkroom where he’d loosened her hair.
My blow cracks reluctant brick,
like the thrash of glass in that 60s storm
when I cowered under my eiderdown,
as she fled through broken beds towards dazzling halls
while he stood in splinters,
lost in the tumble of her hair.
We can see the hills of Loxley
and the river greening where Ivanhoe rode.
From the spoil I steal a wire of white glass
for my girl to wind in her hair.
And it was all a dream.
God wasn’t giggling through his fingers.
The remote could, after all, rewind what happened.
Press the red button to erase guilt.
Are you sure? Are you really sure? And she
she did not squander wanton loveliness
nor starve herself to death for want of love.
She watered pansies on the roof, a brindled cat
sprawled in sun-scraps, her skirt splashed on tar-paper,
her hair snagging light,
teasing them from their black soil,
dark as bruises, white as hot coals, brief as butterflies.
About the Author:
Noel Williams is the author of Out of Breath (Cinnamon, 2014) and Point Me at the Stars (Indigo Dreams, 2017). He’s published quite widely. He’s co-editor of Antiphon (antiphon.org.uk), Associate Editor for Orbis (www.orbisjournal.com), reviewer for The North and Envoi and an occasional writing mentor. Blog: https://noelwilliams.wordpress.com