By Kate Noakes
What I fear most
is a green-skinned demon
squatting on my breastbone
with the weight of a door
under stones; its hands and feet
clawing my flesh.
Defiance in its red eyes, it rips
and squeezes the very breath
from me. It can’t be caught
and will only stop when it wants;
when its almost too late.
One night it may bring me a cat
or horse, and so add an final stone.
Source: a car fire
All day fine chains of rain silver the windows;
hard to see, but easy to feel in a few minutes outside.
Front gardens are my dog walk vistas of wet:
hydrangeas, crocosmia, leylandii.
Ordinariness is Midlands suburbia. There’s nothing
wrong with no cold callers, junk mail, free newspapers,
except nothing ever happens. It’s safe and dull
and normal, and it is important that one’s property
is well-tended: roses and lavender,
grass verges close-mowed around birch trees.
The avenues are quiet –
no difference in the pandemic, then.
My neighbour sends me a photo of our street
in London blocked by police cars
with a wall of flame rising behind them:
orange action and excitement, yes,
scary, yes, and alive for those brief moments
before the fire brigade arrives.
In a world so hushed, let these be my
summer lungs: light, light, light,
always letting in the light.
Add the music of lark song and midnight’s
blackbird, and if I thought we could
find them, the tones of nightingales.
Keep out the discordant notes of winter
and all its discontented
pheasants and wood pigeons.
Fill them not with ground glass opacity
and its hazy oozings of dis-ease.
Let them be transparent flutes
blown by gentle lips in a kiss of sound:
light, light, light, always light.
Normally lush in their plantings,
this year the gardens display flints and soil
in beds hedged by box on the parterre
and in the long garden. Apologies,
volunteers have been unable to work.
One border, along an aged brick wall,
gives a glimpse with its roses,
second flush wisteria and dahlia pompoms,
but it’s a poor substitute for profusion
and my imagination is spent.
On the east lawn, a pair of Nubian bearers
stand coquettish on the stone stairs.
The boys have been repainted in the lockdown:
their bodies black as pitch, their skirts,
headdresses and torches brightly gilded.
Incongruous in this English half-idyll,
they must have fresh consideration.
A sign board uses words like
question, appalling, and slavery.
Kate Noakes is a PhD candidate at the University of Reading. She lives in London where she acts as a trustee for London writers development organisation, Spread the Word, and she reviews poetry for Poetry Wales, The North, Poetry London, and cultural website, London Grip. Her seventh and most recent collection is The Filthy Quiet (Parthian, 2019).