Sleeping in Tongues
Three of us breathing; me and dog and cat.
Awaking to a faint and plaintive mew,
I hold my own breath, ascertaining that
The sound comes from one of the other two.
I act upon an educated guess
And lay a hand on cat, who quickly twists
Into a different pose of idleness
And settles, silent. But the sound persists
So dog it is, who wheezes in a dream
That has bestowed on him the gift of tongues
And things both are, and are not, what they seem.
I let the captive air out of my lungs
Three of us breathing, dog and cat and me;
Ann Drysdale was born near Manchester and brought up in London. She has lived in places as disparate as a narrowboat in the Midlands and a smallholding on the North York Moors where she learned stockmanship by experiment and brought up three children as a single parent. During this time she wrote one of the longest-running by-line columns in the provincial press. Her fifth volume of poetry, Quaintness and Other Offences, recently joined a mixed list of published writing, including memoir, essays and a gonzo guidebook to the City of Newport. She now lives in the highest terrace of a mining town in South Wales.
Snow keeps falling though April’s begun. The city
is buried while we sleep in our beds
and the council’s run out of molasses and grit.
People move through the streets like hospital patients
out for a smoke or a breath of fresh air,
the onset of chilblains cracking their skin.
The park is bereft of hopeful spring tulips
and so are the verges and vases on sideboards.
There’s just enough power for a couple more weeks
what then? We’ll start to burn tables and chairs I suppose.
A family in crampons takes the road into town
for what’s left in the shops, their faces are stung
by the wind from the lake, where anglers in pin-stripes
crouch over the ice, watching the city the other way up.
Martin Figura lives in Norwich with the poet Helen Ivory. His work ranges from the bitingly funny of his Boring The Arse off Young People to the dark subject matter of his Ted Hughes Award shortlisted collection and one-man-show Whistle. He won the 2010 Hamish Canham Prize and has performed from New York to Cromer and is an Apples & Snakes Associated Artist. His photography’s been widely published and exhibited, including at the National Portrait Gallery. He runs the Café Writers live literature series in Norwich and is a founder member of Norwich Poetry Club.
The way I heard it,
she said the rain would slip down, and each blade
lift beneath the weight of drops in ecstasy.
She said, sleep now, close the folds of your eyes
and see blankness, those lights that only you can know.
Forget the empty screen, the full book, the broken words.
The largest animals on earth have bones the same as yours,
and the smallest. The fingers of a bat’s wing, the massive heart
of a giraffe all connect their instruments to you.
She said this is prayer, if anything is, the simple lift
and fall of a lung beneath ribs beneath skin and all
the myriad functions that spawn it. Forget the frogs
hidden beneath frozen ponds, waiting motionless for winter
to break. Hear only this breath, its air. Help form
the clouds with each out-take. Watch each breath
coast towards other lands and creatures. Let it go.
First published in The Rialto
Born in Norfolk in 1971, Heidi lived in Stirling, Brussels, and Salisbury before returning to Norwich in 2001.
Heidi’s day job is as manager of a team of advertising copywriters. She has studied poetry at the UEA, and reads and delivers workshops regularly throughout the UK.
Her first collection ‘Electric Shadow’ (Bloodaxe Books, 2011) is a Poetry Book Society Recommendation.