Make nothing happen
I speak of a country the Gods first made
a valley’s soft V
where they bent back rock.
each stone, they gave a voice
every surface hidden watch.
I speak of lives lived
under yolk of the sun
in the creases of the land,
men who fed their mouths
from the furnace of the earth.
I speak of those pushed
to the world’s brittle edge
elderly, infirm. The hands that never took
but bent, instead, in
Graft. The seeds they sowed
and prayed to see return.
The Gods have grown old,
their powers soft;
they sleep like lizards in the afternoon haze
I speak of the days
when they armed themselves with spite
spun flesh like silk
Unfixed fresh limbs.
I speak of their anger.
I speak of their rage.
I speak of their shadow like a caul upon the world.
Rich with nothing
These are hard days, hours lean and sharp as shivs.
Boggart wind comes scratching like a locked-out dog,
rattling the windows in their brittle frames.
Each day, I wake to lamp-light, the sun’s insinuations,
boots found and bound in a silent pall. Water for the washing bowl;
wood for the stove’s black mouth. I feed them all.
Time has made a joke of our bones. Laughter folds
the edges of our eyes. You sleep and seem as fresh as
when we kissed in the corner of a stairwell.
And now the land is peeling, cracked. We drank her sweet sap dry.
I work my fingers there and think of worms our children caught, lifted, looping, from the
earth, and split in two.
Along the ridge, the breeze takes dirt and scatters it like
salt across the valley’s low red roofs. The path into town shows
white and stark, marbled fat through an animal’s flank.
My love, I hear you singing at the hob. A boiled pan
of skittering eggs, the table cleanly laid.
The season’s fruits were few this year, and late.
Beside the dying fire, twin travellers’ staffs;
branches trimmed from the same black bark.
Rough shoes parked in the shadow of the door
Trail-dust lingering in the ridges of the floor
thin stew frothing in the cradle of the pot.
Strange hands stretching to a proffered cup.
Frail lovers looking eye to milky eye.
A pale moon’s trespass in the midday sky.
A weight upon the room like a beaten drum.
The words that never come, never come.
An Ecumenical Matter
Perhaps when a God speaks, you know,
the same way some parents sense a death;
Some absence which had not announced itself, does now,
like dreaming of gold and waking with empty pockets.
Perhaps when Gods gather up their things and leave,
the door can’t open quick enough:
a vacant chair has never known such lack;
that empty cup will never fill again.
And should your old legs unfold themselves,
and lead you out along some valley’s edge
perhaps a God is no longer an echo of a man,
but everywhere and everything instead;
the black shade of the clouds across the land,
the air becoming thick with falling rain.
‘The powers of Gods are great indeed…’
Where stillness once slept, the rumble of a river grown fat;
and where the land lay, only water, white and churning,
froth like a mad dog’s mouth.
Where doors were drawn and windows shut, fresh splinters
sent spinning in the evening air,
as many glass shards as there were eyes in the world.
Where men had built their houses high, tiles plucked
like teeth, stones shaken from their seats;
wild currents whistling in the throats of gutted halls.
Where young brides blushed in their clean new veils,
the water held and shook them in a final dance, lives snuffed-out
like thin, white wick. Bone and hair and dust.
And when the waters calmed, they saw
a wan sky purged of birds, the earth new-fed with blood. A waterside as green as baize upon
Baucis took her husband’s hand and felt the tenderness
of bones beneath the paper skin. And neither of them wept.
‘…They do what they like’
A strange gift, living quite so long.
Those idle years at the water’s edge,
softly unspooling like balls of golden thread.
They grew alike in age; pruned
and stooped by piling hours, heads bent
Evermore towards the ground.
She saw it first, they say; the sprouting leaves
like white stubble dappling her love’s chin.
Was it fear pursed her wrinkled lips?
Were there words left for wishing
as her heart was set with rings?
We’ll never know, although we live to tell.
And where soft skin bunched into
hard brown bark did it buckle up and snap
take into the air like crows
at the sounding of a farmer’s gun
The ages only echo what was heard.
Did their new shapes settle,
quiet as a midnight snow
or surge and burn,
Like red coals pressed
against an open palm?
Was it life leaked from their toes
and wired them to the earth?
Were they scared? did it hurt?
You and I shall never know. Until we do.
High upon a hillside
twin trees intertwine
An oak and a linden
rooted among rocks
and arches of stone
with white blossom.
A path picks down
to the lake below
Green glass, kissed
Water speaks to water.
No sound now but
the circle-songs of birds.
Nick Garrard is a teacher and writer living in the last ungentrified corner of East London. He has written for Storgy, 3AM, The Literary Review and The Independent on Sunday and edits and publishes Ghostland zine. He is working on a first collection.