The breath of a wall
nothing but a shimmer of air on a hot road
nothing but a curtain of change between inside and out
Nothing but lips pressed together
not sewn but pressed
like hands in prayer
A hand against nothing can make a wall
You slide your fingertips over the cold nothing
open your mouth
the words come out
frantic as birds against glass
‘Adam’s one task in the Garden had been to invent language,
to give each creature and thing its name.’
(Paul Auster: The
Trilogy) New York
Because they do not dazzle her,
she gets to name the white things.
Teeth, feathers, bandages, the old man’s beard, bones.
Plaster casts, the face in the river, the sand.
She can feel their shapes with her tongue.
Ointment, ghosts, marble, snow, paper, kaolin, milk.
Tissues, tampons, sanitary towels, lies,
the small round pills, the sheets, the suds.
(Previously published in The Rialto)
First he took I am here:
screwed it up and put it in his pocket,
worked it into clothy shreds.
I am good he folded neatly, flat;
laid it on his tongue.
Took the proffered wine to help it down.
Then bigger things.
I am free.
The wall is for our own good.
He found that if he closed his eyes it helped.
We deserved it.
And when the soldiers came
he swallowed everything
not gagging even once.
She writes words on white paper
folds them into swans
to send down the river.
She thinks swans are better than bottles
because her words will not be tainted
by the memory of milk or wine or beer or pills
and swans cannot be smashed into weapons
in the Saturday dark.
She’s made a flock of speckled swans.
But the one she sets down on the river’s puckered skin
Daylight – anatomical,
precise – slides between us,
fillets us apart.
In those last seconds,
still fused to you by the heat of sleep’s oven,
I listen to the birds –
already prised from night –
and wait for the flaking,
the stripping down to bones.
The winter children
wheel and arc
above the stuttering hinterlands of the city
their faces flattened by the air.
The winter children have faces of damp clay
mean as pinch-pots
features unformed as creeping dunes.
Their words are unfixed guttering.
Their cry like herring gulls on yawling winds,
like fingernails on glass.
What are these winter children
whose skin is damp tissue,
whose eyes are thumbprints,
whose hands are brittle with lime,
fingers red and scaled like feral pigeons’ feet;
whose abstract nouns have been taken out like teeth?
Prised from a pomegranate husk
in the inverted dark
the children of winter now razor the skies
like angels without souls:
shedding pieces of themselves upon the rubble,
never closing splintered eyes
even when the dust falls thick as ash.
Candling the Eggs
Carefully as a jeweller – fore-finger to apex,
thumb to base – she holds each one close
to the forty watt bulb set up in the corner of the barn.
Leans forward, as if to an airless bell-jar
in an eighteenth century study, assaying
futures as the egg inhales light.
There are three possible conclusions:
fertilised, edible, bad.
She thinks of how these dark trawls
are cloaked in words of light.
Last night, for instance, lamping in the fields –
rabbits, frozen in the rapture of the beam;
the shotgun’s long pragmatic aim.
Tomorrow, it won’t be light that candles
her, but slender waves of sound.
Carefully she holds each one, as if it were
a tiny skull: thumb to occipital crest,
fore-finger to unclosing fontanelle.
Candling the Eggs explores the ways in which we both hide and reveal our experiences and perceptions of life, the ways in which we are able or unable to speak. Images of water, birds, paper and dolls, and allusions to myth and history, thread their way through the collection illustrating fragmented stories in a landscape of light and dark, of silence and sound.
'The poems in this collection are precise, lyrical and beautiful, sometimes disquieting and strange, often pushing at the boundaries of language and into silence. This is a mesmerising and accomplished collection.' Jan Fortune
'Sally Douglas’s poems are disturbing and beautiful; broken, elliptical narratives, monologues from subtle, unpredictable perspectives. There’s a sense they are written from a place of loss, or damage. She’s a poet who can evoke, and conjure, who understands the power of what is left unsaid. At the same time her poems sing, and it is precisely this pervasive, darkly lyrical tone that allows them to be heard, and felt, with such emotional and dramatic force.' Greta Stoddart
A further selection of poems from the collection can be found at Peony Moon and at Abegail Morley's Poetry Shed.
Candling the Eggs is available direct from the publisher Cinnamon Press,from Inpress Books, from good booksellers, and from Amazon.
Please note that all poems are Copyright Sally Douglas, and should not be copied or used without permission.