Four poems by Denise Riley
It willed to be ordinary, easy
as rain sifting through woods
but doubt shrouded the mind
to warp its aim of kindliness.
Fires were lit and sap hissed
in green branches torn down
by anxiety contorted to shield
itself, biting its angry hands.
It smoked out each transparent joy.
It strode well away from its heart.
Darkness absorbs the mind, once
it starts calling itself ‘unwanted’.
Oh go away for now
Persistent are your lost or dead
intimates and buried child.
They won’t leave their wants unsaid
but tag you with appeals and prods
while your ‘work of mourning’ quails
before each sibilant attack
inveigling you to lead them back:
‘You’ve loved us terribly, and so
you’ve kept us going even though …’
Calmly heap fresh soil upon them.
They can wait for you to join them
as soon you will; you’ll soon gang up
to poke and give some new grief to
whoever, left living, once loved you.
On the Black Isle
Three ginger temples of oilrigs clamped at the bay’s mouth, a
big navy sky roiled over cloud pillars; the notebook goes riffling
through its colour chart for rose-flushed stonework cut clean as
these rain-beaded fuchsias or until that notebook, a mental one,
flips round to enquire whitely: Just what do you think you’re up to?
‘Any gay thing’s worth a chase, for as long as its shade distracts,
so drape, far rain, hung in cinematic swathes’. Its next reproach
isn’t appealing, either: So where am I in this? ‘We aren’t – this is in
rosy Cromarty, its broad fields racing by and silvery ruthless rain
nettling our scoured skins.’ – Quite vanished and never said why.
Thick kelp straps gleam in the shallows and loll on the rising tide.
Exhibit of small boxes made from wood
to house their thought and each an open
coffin of the not-dead with their chirring.
Satin-lined frames stack square in blocks
nested to a columbarium – then mumble
closet doves, whose fond carpenter drills
piercings for more air, won’t let you flap.