I Didn’t Ask
The morning the world changed, sky was stone,
a chainsaw started up a few gardens down –
limb on limb, a cherry tree fell to lawn.
I was counting branches when the call came.
The quarry pool. An unlocked car. Shoes
out of place on the furthest path.
Breath and heart bounced along,
as if some excitement had arrowed through.
Then I was liquid, panting like an animal.
I could smell you, hear your voice,
asking for something I couldn’t catch,
alive again, helping me to stand.
Much later when I came to myself,
I thought of that last time, the two
of us sleepy in August, by the river,
willing the sun to show itself as we
named clouds, lay as a steam train
dragged its smoke into a hill.
Love, what should I have known?
Would you have told me if I’d asked?
Roz Goddard has published four collections of poems, the most recent The Sopranos Sonnets and Other Poems (Nine Arches Press) featured on R3’s The Verb. Her new full collection is forthcoming from Fair Acre Press in 2016. She is a former poet laureate of Birmingham. She won the inaugural New Welsh Review micro fiction competition in 2013, was highly commended in the Bridport Poetry Prize 2014, and won the 2015 Interpreter’s House poetry competition with her poem The Baroness and the Nun. She is grateful to Arts Council England for a literature award to complete her latest collection.
Imagine a life
not marked with birthdays, but death days.
An existence eternally stamped with an end-date.
Parties would be held
to celebrate time remaining, not spent;
twenty, forty years left in which to die,
the countdown feeling like a permanent death.
Would humanity rejoice in knowing
when ends are to arrive?
No more rage shown against dying lights,
but each day down, another step
towards peaceful conclusions.
What tell-tale sign would parents receive?
Would there be coding in placentas?
Umbilical cords cut
for counting the rings
as tethered kicks
become uprooted with a scream.
Pity the ones who are only given
days, weeks, who will know in advance
that the bell will toll out of sequence
for their family.
bereft of caul or cord,
are to be found in alleyways and doorsteps,
without any sense of their end:
these children would be considered immortal.
Funerals would become instantaneous,
counting down the breaths
alongside the clock;
the coffin lid opened,
ready to receive supplication,
the pit already dug in willing anticipation.
What of suicide?
No surprises for those left behind.
Will grief still bear its sting?
Will men go to war
knowing the dates of battle
branch over their hideouts.
No man will wish to die
on foreign shores.
Each year will being up
less candles, less scope,
and instead of growing as people,
our souls will slowly diminish
as death becomes accepted,
and life moves its flicker
across our graves.
Colin Dardis is a poet, editor, creative writer tutor, freelance arts facilitator and mental health advocate, based in Belfast, Northern Ireland. His work has been published widely throughout Ireland, the UK and the USA. He is also the online editor for Lagan Press.
Glum. That’s the word. Today’s word.
with your current difficulties the letter said.
Now here I am. Ready and waiting.
This waiting room’s the same as any other
only smaller and attempting reassurance.
In case you feel tempted to bolt.
All in a day’s work, it must be.
No-one else here with current difficulties.
Will he ask, I wonder, how I planned to do it?
Someone’s stolen the drawing pin
from the notice about the Samaritans.
It swings to and fro. You have to read it
sideways. If someone comes in they’ll think.
But then I am, after all. We all are.
Perhaps they keep us from one another.
Leave fifteen minutes between appointments
so the consultant can write up notes,
have a pee, ring the wife, do press-ups.
I didn’t want to be seen.Collar up stuff
like in a gangster movie. No cigarette.
We need a bar but that’s no doubt forbidden.
(first published in Seam)
Carole Bromley lives in York where she is the Poetry Society’s stanza rep and also runs monthly poetry surgeries. She is published by Smith/Doorstop and her second collection, ‘The Stonegate Devil’ will be out in October. Her website is www.carolebromleypoetry.co.uk