Ghazal: A House that Leaks
Why must I live in a house that leaks?
Do I really believe in a house that leaks?
The greyest day, so long as it’s dry,
is a blessed reprieve in a house that leaks.
Falling asleep in an autumn storm
takes me to sea in a sieve, in a house that leaks.
To un-batten the hatches, forget the buckets,
would be naïve in a house that leaks.
I should swarm like mad bees, abandon the hive,
not bravely grieve in a house that leaks.
But here’s my damp notebook, here my wet pen:
it won’t make me give in, a house that leaks.
To jolt the last drops from the ceiling rose,
let’s jitter and jive in a house that leaks . . .
There’s no answer, Ni, to the night rain’s sigh:
How deep can you dive in a house that leaks?
After Blazons by Marilyn Hacker
Reading by the sea,
I imagine Marilyn
writing her renga ‒
fingers tapping the desk edge,
she riffs on three dictionaries,
Fadwa still smoking
through page after page grey rain
blurring her window
as a girl chinks two pebbles
and a boy’s dug from rubble.
Digging for meaning
to the rhythm of a cough
I’ve lugged for two months
(dry, convulsive, not Covid,
though my singing voice is scarred)
I wound a tap root,
scrape a living, strike rock, dredge
black tar from a tide
in which so many struggle
soon they will displace the sea.
The ADHD Gardener
As a child, I hated you. Blamed you
for the deaths of cats, failed transplants,
lost summer Sunday mornings.
Raged against you in my mother’s arms.
In my teens, I cursed your crimes
of collaboration with priests binding briars,
crusaders and kings who tortured their daughters ‒
rejecting your sterile roses, virginal lilies,
I rolled in rampant meadows with selfheal and snakes,
the great hum of bee swarms blurring your name.
Now though, living alone,
every pink bud but one dropping
from my small orchid I miss you ‒
the faith you placed in candles,
your big hands, their scent of sparrows . . .
Who else is worth thinking about, day in, day out?
Much as I still wish to smash the narrow mirrors
of those who see in you only themselves,
love, it is clear, is your weakness,
and love’s weakness, I’ve learned,
is love’s strength: unlike an orchid, love suffers
not bud blast from drenching, relocation or heat.
The fearful and furious crush your petals
in their fists, but outside their spike-iron gates
You run wild ‒ an invisible ADHD gardener
who nurtures every human gender, shape and colour,
can’t decide whether to live or die,
what Book to read, even.
I see You everywhere now.
The sharpened edge of a rainbow is Your hoe ‒
we, Your seeds and straining buds.
You water our failure with your tears,
and from a wonky wheelbarrow
spread the deep hot muck that helps us grow.
First Prize Winner (Age 26-65) in the 2021 Bristol Cathedral Poetry, Faith & Diversity Competition