her wings

The monster is tres cool, uber beautiful
in moist black leather, as large as an
elephant, with four legs, firm flesh,
a dragon’s tail and grace. I do not know

whether to be afraid. It does not seem vicious
or vile. There is no stench of stagnant drains
or carrion. It smells of haemoglobin. Cambium.
Of still air among leaves.

I am standing at its left side.
Its broad wings are raised.
Upon its thorax, behind its forelegs,
level with my eyes,

I lay my right palm, fingers
pointing at the tremendous
shoulder, feeling the insistence
of a big bass heart.

The monster’s blood is warm,
but cooler than mine. Her name
is Creativity. She holds her wings
high, tenting me while I touch.

From A coat of ashes

The soft split

I’ve been trying to grow wings by flying.

It doesn’t work.

If you’re a magpie chick
you need your mum,
dad, big brothers,
the whole arguing clan
to bring you food
and chase away monsters.
Your wings are ready
before your brain.
When your mum coaxes you out of the nest
she has to catch you before you hit
until you get
the hang.
After that there’s work to do.
Trees to defend.
Babies to feed.

If you’re a caterpillar
and you’ve had some luck
chewing leaf, evading beak,
you need a safe corner
and time to spin.
It’s quiet
and it takes
a while. When
you fly it just
happens. Then your whole thing
is to mate. Longing,
bliss. A week or two
in the air. A special place
for the soft split of laying.
Then floating away on what’s left
of the wings. Drifting
out, shattered to quarks.

From A coat of ashes

The catbeing

A sleeping catbeing,
black white ochre body curled,
furred cheek turned
     (Her free ear flicks
     as I shift on the wooden stool,
     as my sock scuffs the floor)
The catbeing, catmind, lithe catbody
has made her toilette
     (as Eliot said)
and now takes her repose

Pets are banned
But she is not my pet
Responsibility is claimed
by Unit 33
Kipper, their collar calls her
     (A motorbike dopplers past:
     her head lifts, then subsides)
She is the gentlest
of the three local catbeings,
the one most partial to humans
     (or, at least, to me)
She has come to my room for refuge,
for a pause in her difficult war
with the powerful catbeing from
beyond the fence
whom I stroked at lunchtime
but did not admit

The weary catbeing has come to rest
on the faded quilt I use
as a meditation seat
I unfold it to cat dimensions,
smooth its green 70s geometries
flat on the scarred sofa
     (catbeings enjoy a soft bed)
She kneads and stretches and washes,
clips her claws with her teeth,
clamping and yanking,
then works through a sequence of postures
until, eventually, she settles.
     (I unplug the phone)

Her spine is an opening parenthesis,
a yang matched by the yin of her tail
All along her rounded back
her filaments stand proud, separate,
like iron filings inscribing
the north and south of a magnetic field.
The purring catbeing, earthed, live,
is locus, nexus, nucleus —
a cluster of cells making waves
of Thursday afternoon peace.

From A coat of ashes.
First published in Uneven Floor