Monthly Archives: January 2012

Caroline Carver’s Tikki Tikki Man


© Image by Lyn Moir

Caroline Carver began writing poetry in the mid-1990s, and won the National Poetry Prize with a poem about killing a shark in 1998. Since then she has won or been placed in many competitions, winning the prestigious Silver Wyvern Award from Poetry-on-the-Lake in Orta, Italy, and the first Guernsey ‘Poems On the Buses’ competition. She was commended in the 2010 National Poetry competition.
Caroline was born in England, brought up in Bermuda and Jamaica, finished her education in England, Switzerland and France, and then emigrated to Canada for 30 years. Since she returned to England she’s travelled widely with her poetry. She’s a Hawthornden Fellow, resident poet at Trebah Gardens and very active in poetry affairs in Cornwall. 

Tikki Tikki Man (Ward Wood Publishing, 2012) is Caroline Carver’s fourth collection and the first to be published by Ward Wood. It tells the story of how two children deal with the after effects of child abuse, as their lives take them from Jamaica to Paris, to Scotland and eventually the Canadian wilderness.
being Bluebeard
means submarines     doors clanging shut
sonic booms     furtive night messengers
means sealing of fire   water     wind
reduction by earth and its dark shovels
watch out man     I see you slipping in and out
of corridors     look like rats got your face”
“The vivid landscapes, real and imaginary, that these poems economically evoke, are never simply an exotic backdrop. Rather, their beauty and their ambiguities weave the reader into an unsettling, unsentimental vision of how childhood can be damaged, exiled from itself and finally, cautiously, returned to its place in the world. This is difficult material, delicately done, all the more powerful for its sure and subtle touch.”
– Philip Gross
“The poetry of Caroline Carver’s Tikki Tikki Man is spacious and at home in many landscapes. Its content is troubling, its beauty redemptive. It leaves the reader with a sense of the world as a larger, and warmer, place.”
– Alison Brackenbury
“… a stunning collection. I completely lost myself in the world you have created.”
– Dr Catherine Walters
Maia holds to everything she knows
like a suit of armour
her world’s made of granite
there’s nothing else to learn
she’s lost her curiosity
if I wonder why flowers open in the morning
and shut again at night
or ask why some burst out with great breaths of joy
filling us with the scent of mangoes and wild honey
and then hold it in again for weeks
she looks at her fingers
as if they’ve only just grown on her hands this morning
she turns her eyes away as she talks
– perhaps when I’m grown up
I’ll stop remembering –   she says
we no longer climb trees
to spy on the world from our leafy hideaways
peep through half-open bedroom doors
stand on the beach wondering why the horizon
is always the same distance away
whether we are rowing our boat out to the reef
or standing on the ferry as it heads out to sea
when I persuade her to start riding again
she’s like a sleep-walker
a stone-like calm on her face
– even weeds are stronger than I am –
she says   – I’m not like them
I don’t want to push through concrete
I don’t want to find the light –
sometimes we go to the kitchens
where we’re not supposed to go
but everyone else is out
and today Maia cut herself when she fell off the donkey
the cook has also cut his arm
he picks her up
presses his dark skin against her freckles
– see   we’re blood brother and sister –   he says
– we’re the same under the skin –
we both love him as deeply
as we’ve ever loved anyone
but this was before the Tikki Tikki Man
we’re playing at her house
when there’s a knock on the door
it’s the Tikki Tikki Man
but her father’s not here
when he comes in
the scent of roses is replaced
by the prickle of Old Spice aftershave
we run into the garden
climb the mango tree
he’s too fat to come after us
prowls around the base
like an angry wolf
we’re shipwrecked
on this outcrop of seashell and reef
only aurelia aurita
the slow white jellyfish
doesn’t seem to mind
her pale calm reminds us
she’s named for the moon
but I’m afraid for her
there’s no food
and it’s six hours till the tide comes back
like a woman with a bucket
daylight draws water from her shallow pool
          the sun moves slowly
aurelia’s pale blue orifices
open and shut   open and shut
like the questing mouths of new babies
not sure which way to turn
in their self-contained worlds
– I’ll never have children –   says Maia
as we wait for the lifeboat
nudging its way in among sharp rocks
so it can throw a line to us
we buy tamarind balls in the market
before we go to the beach
but we’re not comfortable with the sight of men
in bulging bathing-suits
one of them scratches himself
and dark hairs creep into the sunlight
everything to do with men’s bodies
has a bad feeling to it
the sweet sour taste of the tamarind balls
prickles our mouths
– if you wear your hair like that –
says her neighbour
– someone’s going to rape you –
Maia goes home and looks at herself in the mirror
she takes the kitchen scissors
hacks at the hair which reaches to her waist
tears it from her head till her scalp’s bleeding
cuts the great swag away from herself
like a scythe of late summer wheat
trims   more slowly now
back to the fluff of childhood
then… gathering every last strand into a bag
she takes it out into the garden   sets fire to it
she’d thanked him for his thoughtfulness
now   she sees
he was warning her against himself
for the next seven weeks
the smell of burning hair stays with her
she never goes out
each night she dreams of a forest in flames
animals running into the desert
bodies singed with pain
radiating a terrible light
from Tikki Tikki Man (Ward Wood Publishing, 2012).
Order Tikki Tikki Man.
Read more of Caroline’s work at poetry p f.

Andy Brown’s The Fool and the Physician

Andy Brown is Director of the Exeter University Writing Programme, and was previously an Arvon Centre Director at Totleigh Barton. His most recent book of poems is The Fool and the Physician (Salt Publishing, 2012). Other recent books are: Goose Music with John Burnside (Salt Publishing), The Storm Berm (tall-lighthouse), and Fall of the Rebel Angels: Poems 1996-2006 (Salt Publishing).

“Exploding with Carnivalesque and antic energy, The Fool and the Physician shows the formal range and wit of Andy Brown’s poetry, from traditional lyric forms such as pantoums, sonnets and ballads, to paradelles, prayers, prose poems, and many playful devices inspired by the authors of the OuLiPo.
The poems center on the figure of the Clown and the Fool, exploring the meanings and associations attached to these characters. In part one, clowns career into space, up to heaven, knock at our front doors and expound upon the end of the world. The second half of the book is based on some of the remarkable paintings of Hieronymus Bosch – from direct responses to his works, to personal poems, or the more tangential approaches such as the densely erotic ‘Garden of Earthly Delights’ – playing off Bosch’s extraordinary representations of fools and visions of human folly.”

“Lyrical precision and infinite jest, as funny and curious as it is poignant and moving. These are poems that teach us there is no dignity but in recognising our own ludicrousness; they teach us to drop our pretences and relax; then they pie us in the face.”
– Luke Kennard
“Vivid and tangible, there is a real wit that at times makes me laugh out loud, a true learning, and a gentle humanity to these tender-hearted poems.”
– Lee Harwood
“Andy Brown is one of our most interesting and exciting younger poets. With its love of ideas and language, his work demonstrates that there need be no barriers in poetry; that the philosophical, the lyrical and the playful can be combined in work of assured and generous vision.”
– John Burnside 
Clown in Space
In September 2009, Canadian clown Guy Laliberté,
founder of the Cirque du Soleil, was launched into
space from the Kazakhstan steppes.
Above the steppes I career into space
and wonder myself into darkness.
It is daytime down there, ‘broad daylight’
up here, but utterly dark. Below on earth
the atmosphere spins the sunlight into gold,
whilst up here there’s no atmosphere at all
to strike a glow between the stars—
there is nothing like darkness to remind you
you are extraordinarily alive, and alone.
The blue planet turns like a plate on a stick
underneath the Heavens’ billowing Top,
slung with a billion fairy lights and spots.
The stars perform their hypnotism act,
pulsing like the cities down below.
Although I’m the first of my kind into space,
my friends are all around in constellation:
Leo jumping through his ring of fire;
the Gemini twins in bareback balance,
riding around the ring on Pegasus;
the giant Betelgeuse and his team of red dwarfs;
the Sisters of the Pleiades, holding on
like the Severinis in their human pyramid.
Here is Orion, throwing knives at Venus,
and Hercules decked with his barbells and furs.
Impossible to juggle here—the balls simply float
from your hands, although tumbling is easy:
you set yourself in motion, spinning round
and round and round.
                              But this show is soon done
when Earth obscures the blue-eyed moon;
when my dreams slide down the thrilling slopes
of the Big Dipper; when the lit-up world floats by
and this audience of one returns to gravity
and stumbling jokes, as the ring-master Sun
calls closing time on the cirque du soleil.
The Clown’s Prayer
          In the prison of his days
          Teach the free man how to praise.
                                                 W H Auden
Oh Lord, oh Harpo Marx, oh Charlie Chaplin: glory be to the Insanity itself, for it is divinely inspired, it is carnival. Glory be to the messengers of mayhem, the anarchists, the silent performers. Glory be to the red flannel coxcomb and bells. Glory be to doing things the wrong way round. Glory be to juggling with a small dog at our heels. Glory be the mystery that deceived the Devil; the glee that leaps across our lives.
Oh Joseph Grimaldi, oh William Kempe, oh Pantomimus: where there is a rope on the floor let us wrestle it like a snake. Where there is a donkey or a pig, let us ride it home backwards. Where there is pomposity let us criticise the master and his guests; let us make fun of, be indelicate about, and rude towards, without fear of reprisal. Let us kill ourselves with laughter. When we stumble over the edge, commit us to imperfection.
Oh Harold Lloyd, oh Lou Costello, oh Oliver Hardy: blessed is he who trips across the line between the man he is and the man he would be. Blessed are they who float in the workaday world. Blessed are they who show what is wrong with the way that things are. Blessed is he who takes the pie in the face and gets knocked on the arse. Blessed are they who spank the crowd with a slap stick.
Oh Coco the Clown, oh Stan Laurel, oh Bud Abbott: teach me to wear freckles, warts, a big red nose. Teach me to stand in for the lion tamer; to touch freely on the touchiest issues. Teach me to look at myself in the mirror and find the trickster in a domino mask. Teach me to glance through the windows of the world I’ve missed. Help me be mischievous, not malicious. Teach me to ‘Sweep Up the Spotlight’.
Oh Puck, oh Nick Bottom, oh John Cleese: make me nimble and able whilst clumsy and dim. Help me mingle ecstasy and death. Make me the keystone that holds up normality’s arch. Help me to be wise enough to lead the deadpan troupe. Make me a tramp in patched and tattered clothes, then make the others do my bidding. Help me set up scenes that turn out droll. Make me wise enough to play the fool himself.
A Clown in the Moonlight
‘There is nothing funny about a clown in the moonlight.’
                                                              Lon Chaney
How we feel about the clown
depends on where we see him—
a circus or party, no problem,
but ringing your doorbell at sundown?
That clown is a psycho killer,
a mirror of your fears,
knocking the world out of kilter . . .
and his laughter? It shears. 
The Adoration of the Magi
after W H Auden ‘Musee des Beaux Arts’
What we do results from where we are—
emerging from the landscapes of our lives
and of our dreams—just as what happens
in this world happens, mostly, without us,
unnoticed in the distant emptiness, where
the future hangs like something long forgotten.
We do not know what goes on and what we do
we often times ignore.
                              As in Bosch’s painting
The Adoration of the Magi, for instance:
how everything turns away from the unmoved
town at the mouth of the river, fringed by those
familiar dunes, where a traveller is mauled
by wild animals and a woman chased by wolves
through the blasted trees and untamed land,
their suffering ignored or passing unnoticed
in the wider details of the indifferent earth;
or how everything turns from the rotundas
and stupas of our homely town, turns away
from the ruinous gallows and the horsemen
galloping beneath the ensign of the moon,
insisting, instead, that this is all that matters:
how here there came on the fourteenth day
three Kings and Magi following a star, here
to this decrepit inn under the sign of the swan,
where Joseph kindles a modest courtyard fire
and a shepherd couple sprawl indecently
rubbing their eyes in the smokescreen
of ceremony;
                   how this is all that is the case,
rather than the truth of robbers hiding out
in wait for us somewhere in the spreading land,
or how each day oscillates between delight
and joy and other signs of unrest, violence:
the surface that could split at any time.
‘The Adoration of the Magi’: Perhaps the best known of Twentieth Century painting-poems is W H Auden’s ‘Musee des Beaux Arts’, after another of the great Flemish master painters, Peter Breughel, and his painting The Fall of Icarus. Auden’s poem contains the line ‘In Breughel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away / Quite leisurely from the disaster’, on which I have leant heavily in my own poem.
from The Fool and the Physician (Salt Publishing, 2012).
Order The Fool and the Physician.
Visit Andy’s blog.

Andrea Ashworth’s Somewhere Else, or Even Here

Somewhere Else, or Even Here
A. J. Ashworth

ISBN 9781844718801
Salt Publishing
(November 2011)
We love stories. We crave them. Whether it’s watching films, reading books, going to the theatre or listening to gossip – we need them. And we need to be surrounded by them. Writers, being curiously obsessive creatures, are hooked on them. So hooked that they want to make their own stories – for as much of the time as possible – and for the stories they make to have meaning, for themselves and others.

I wanted to make stories from quite a young age. My first such memory was of sitting in my bedroom at about the age of six or so and making a book of poems. I still have it. It’s a little dog-eared now but it’s surviving. It has a cut-out of a rose stuck on the front and is rather inventively called ‘My book of poems’. Inside are a scattering of poems, in various colours of felt tip, about the seaside or flowers in a window box. And there’s an interesting type of binding which has somehow lasted more than thirty years – staples (now rusted).
I didn’t have to design or bind my short story collection Somewhere Else, or Even Here – thankfully my publishers Salt did that. I just had to worry about what was inside – the stories themselves.
Writing them was an intriguing, and, at times, difficult process. When I started out on the collection, about four years ago, I had no overall plan for it, no unifying subject or theme. I just wrote one story at a time and kept going. Each story was unplanned too. For me, there’s nothing better than feeling as if I’m in new, unknown territory when I’m writing – it’s like being an explorer. Only, you’re not discovering new continents or planets, you’re discovering something else – something new that you yourself are writing into existence.
The stories are all quite different – from child narrators to the elderly; failing relationships to failing health. And there are certain themes which have emerged in the collection too, such as astronomy, loss and hope. There’s a darkness to many of the stories, but, as with yin and yang, where there’s darkness there’s light. It’s strange how, as the writer, you don’t always see everything that the stories you’ve created contain. It’s like being blind to yourself. Which, I suppose, to a greater or lesser degree, we all are.
So what about the inspiration behind the stories? Well, sometimes there didn’t seem to be any obvious trigger at all. Stories such as ‘Sometimes Gulls Kill Other Gulls’ or ‘Overnight Miracles’ began after the first sentences dropped into my head, seemingly from nowhere. ‘Gulls’, about a girl on a beach who is lured away to a cave by a boy, just started with the words “A stick scraping over sand”, and from this I got the idea of a girl writing her name in the sand and a boy coming up to talk to her. It was only when I sat down to write it that the story began to open out in front of me, like a path revealing itself, one piece at a time.
‘Overnight Miracles’ was the same. This tells the story of a bereaved woman who starts performing magic rituals in a desperate bid to try to bring her dead husband back to life. With this one I just had the sentence “We are in the blackest part of night now”, and from this I somehow knew that this woman was in bed and aware of something lying next to her in the dark – a presence that she could only feel but not see.
‘Bone Fire’ had a more obvious genesis: this story of a troubled boy who drags a bonfire into the basement of his school was inspired by a visit to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. On the day I went there was an exhibition of photographs showing groups of children standing in front of some rickety bonfires they’d made. I jotted down my impressions of the exhibition in a notebook and when I later sat down to write, I wondered about what might happen if one of the boys decided to carry out an act of destruction using such a bonfire. The story was the result of those ponderings.
One aspect of writing the collection which really fascinated me was the effects gained from using different points of view. ‘Zero Gravity’ features a gang of girls, so it seemed logical to use first person plural (we) for most of the story, but to shift this to first person when one of the girls breaks free and begins to narrate the story herself. I enjoyed the feeling of writing in second person (you) as this gives a sense of dislocation, of separation, of being outside of things – something which can help to create an almost otherworldly atmosphere, giving stories a different kind of charge.
I loved going through the process of putting a collection together, especially when I didn’t even have the bones of a plan to hang the stories onto. It was a great surprise when my manuscript was chosen as one of three winners of Salt Publishing’s Scott Prize last year – something which I didn’t expect to happen but which I’m so glad has. I am going to continue to write more stories in the months and years ahead. New stories, slightly off-kilter stories, the kinds of stories that will hopefully give me that thrill of discovery again. It’s that feeling of being somewhere else that I want – that sense of being in another place. The thought that, while the landscape may seem somewhat familiar, it’s really no place that I’ve ever visited before.
Order Somewhere Else, or Even Here here, here or here.
Visit Andrea’s blog.
A. J. Ashworth was born and brought up in Lancashire and has an MA in Writing from Sheffield Hallam University. Her short story collection Somewhere Else, or Even Here won Salt Publishing’s Scott Prize and was published by them in November 2011. Her stories have been published widely, in the likes of The Warwick Review, Horizon Review, Tears in the Fence and Under the Radar. They have also been listed in competitions such as The Willesden Herald International Short Story Competition, the Fish Short Story Prize and the Short Fiction Competition.

Cassandra Parkin on New World Fairy Tales

New World Fairy Tales
Cassandra Parkin
ISBN 9781844718818
Salt Publishing
(December 2011)

Like most writers, my childhood was soaked in fairy tales. Even before I could read properly I spent hours poring over the illustrations of my Ladybird editions of Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Rumplestiltskin and reciting the text from memory. Slightly older, I was fixated on my mother’s hardback edition of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, with illustrations by Arthur Rackham and very little expurgated.
I think it’s impossible to overestimate the debt we owe to these stories, or the number of times and ways we retell them. They’re some of the very first narratives we learn; they tell us the things we human beings need to know to understand each other, in ways that have meaning whether you’re four or ninety. They deal with the very bones of life – birth and death, love and jealousy, sex and violence … They’re dark and bloody and sexy and visceral, and in interviewing their tellers and recording their voices, the Grimm brothers undertook one of the greatest acts of cultural preservation of the last five centuries.
But there’s no getting away from it – almost everything about them is weird. They’re heavy on action, but oddly light on explanation. A whole bunch of stuff happens; why it happens is up to you. Why does Chicken Licken believe Foxy Loxy when he tells her the King lives in a hole in the ground? Why does the Princess love her golden ball so much that she’ll kiss a frog to get it back, and what on earth did he do to end up a frog in the first place? Why, exactly, are seven adult men, all with dwarfism, living together in an isolated cottage with no female company? How could a teenage girl mistake a large carnivorous predator for her grandmother? Why are all the princesses beautiful and all the witches ugly? Why does Death want a Godson? How can pigs build houses, and why do they share a common language with wolves? Why does Cinderella hide away from the Prince? What the hell is going on?
The easy answer is “Well, they’re all metaphors, aren’t they?”, and of course, in many ways, they all are. But I wanted to see what would happen if I tried to re-tell some of the original narratives as modern, believable, adult stories – tales where real people with real lives really do fall in love with a masked stranger, or climb the beanstalk and rob the giant, or discover a beautiful prisoner trapped in a tower by a witch. I wanted to find the real-life equivalents of Godfather Death and the Wicked Stepsisters and the many, many Big Bad Wolves, and tell their stories for modern audiences. The result was New World Fairy Tales.
The most exciting part of writing the collection was exploring how much – or, more accurately, how little – I had to change to make the tales work in a contemporary setting. While some elements (Jack’s beanstalk) found their place as symbols, others (seven workmates with dwarfism) work surprisingly well with no amendments at all. Names, puns and modern colloquialisms felt as though they’d been expressly designed for some of the animal stories. Even elements which seem, at first glance, to belong entirely to the world of Faerie – such as the power of knowing someone’s true name – turn out to be surprisingly true. I found out one afternoon that there really is a fabric so light and delicate that a small garment made from it could feasibly be compressed into a walnut shell. It’s made from the filament tufts used by molluscs to attach themselves to rocks, and it’s fabulously expensive.
The decision to place New World Fairy Tales in America came very early on. If you’re British, America is as close to the original landscape of Grimm’s Fairy Tales as you’ll ever get. I don’t mean this in a flowery oh-my-gosh-your-country-is-so-amazing way (although it is). I just mean that if you stand in Britain, look out across the ocean, and then compare the two landscapes – America and Fairyland – they come out very similar. America contains all possible spaces and places; mountains and deserts and plains and oceans, great cities and curtain-twitching suburbs and tiny, isolated rural hamlets. It’s composed of many kingdoms, loosely federated, each with their own distinctive culture and autonomous power. Getting there requires a long and arduous journey, and when you arrive at the border, it’s weirdly difficult to get in. Its population is at once more devout and more violent than we are; when we visit, we tread softly and are cautious with what we say, and to whom we say it. Even if we’ve never been before, it looks strangely familiar – after all, we’ve been there so often in our dreams. Its citizens speak our language, but also … don’t.
Oh, the language, my goodness, the language. When I look back on the start of the New World Fairy Tales project, my main emotion is utter bafflement at myself – “Hey, I know! I’ll write an entire short-story collection in a language I don’t actually speak, set in a country I’ve never lived in!” What was I thinking? How much more arrogant could a writer possibly be? But there was never any question for me that these fairy tales belonged in the New World. Learning to reproduce what I hope are convincing American voices was a humbling and wonderful journey. I spent hours emailing and chatting to my unbelievably kind and patient Stateside friends, trying to learn the rhythms and cadences of American speech. I read, and listened, and talked, and questioned, and then read and talked and listened and questioned some more (seriously guys, thank you for everything you did and for all the stupid questions you answered). Even at the final proof stage I was still frantically combing through my manuscript for rogue instances of Brit-speak. I’m sure there are still places where, despite my best efforts, my roots are showing.
Choosing which stories to include in my submission to Salt Publishing’s Scott Prize was a bit of a balancing act. I wanted to reflect the wild diversity of the Grimm brothers’ original collection – to include not just the romances, but also the horrors and the comedies and the mysteries, and the tales that are frankly too strange to be categorised. And all in only forty-five thousand words! Since Salt’s list includes some of the most scarily talented short-story writers of our time, I almost didn’t submit at all … Eight months after the announcement of the 2011 prize-winners, I still can’t quite believe I’m one of them.
Order New World Fairy Tales here or here.
Visit Cassandra’s blog.
Cassandra Parkin has a Master’s degree in English Literature from York University, and has been writing fiction all her life – mostly as Christmas and birthday presents for friends and family. She is married with two children, has so far resisted her clear destiny to become a mad old cat lady, and lives in a small but perfectly-formed village in East Yorkshire. New World Fairy Tales (Salt Publishing, 2011) is her first published book.

Meryl Pugh’s The Bridle

Meryl Pugh was born in 1968 and grew up in Wales, New Zealand, East Anglia and the Forest of Dean, where her family settled. Short-listed for the New Writing Ventures Poetry Prize in 2005, she is a Hawthornden Fellow. Arrowhead Press published her first pamphlet, Relinquish, in 2007. Her second, entitled The Bridle, came out with Salt Publishing at the end of 2011. She is a PhD candidate at UEA and lives in Norwich and London, where she teaches poetry.

The Bridle (Salt Publishing, 2011) is concerned with the stories we tell ourselves to make sense of the human condition. Childhood, family, memory, myth — even the arguments and silences between lovers — all are enlisted in the bid to come to terms with our fleshy, mortal state. Poetry, here, is the bridle; restraining and shaping emotion, holding and guiding thought, as Pugh grapples with what it means to be human and female and how best to speak of that experience. Whatever the poems’ forms (sonnet or free verse, rhymed or unrhymed, long sequences or short, six line fragments), they sing out to the reader directly, urgently, in despair and celebration.”
“Assured yet tender, Meryl Pugh keeps an impressively tight rein on her craft to such an extent we can still hear each poem long after it has galloped off the page.”
– Samantha Wynne-Rhydderch
The Charcoal Bridle
Thoughts as strange as unbroken horses
have led me up to the crack
between hill and sky, air and silhouette.
I set a fire before I left
and when the ashes floated like my reason
I took this lump
from the charred bole of a tree
and followed the ones with tangled manes.
But they are not horses here.
There is no hill or sky
only the cold side of something.
Hard. Crushing.
It does not bend, it does not move.
You are dashed on it
and then it ends. Motes rush
into the gap to be lost
and though the ground is churned as if by hooves
there is nothing here.
I will put on the charcoal bridle
learn to yield, learn to resist
to trust the headstall, bit and rein
for this uncertain footing.
I will come down off the ridge
and I will speak the bridled language.
The Singing Door
Come to the singing door and ask your question.
Don’t pace about or try to look behind it.
Don’t look for keyholes, handles, cracks (there are none).
Just stand in front of it, where it has landed
and listen for the voice of someone lost.
At first, you’ll think the sounds you hear are random —
birds foraging for insects in the moss,
rain, the wind through branches — but this is the language
you must learn. So, patience! Listen: a fox
is scratching in its den, a magpie cackles,
a beetle mounts another on a rock.
Give each sound its place and let them gather
until they break like thunder, fade, then stop.
Into this silence (it only sounds like your father)
the door will drop its low, meandering song:
a composite of creatures, plants and weather,
alien and human, strange but known.
Stand your ground as leaves begin to wither,
the sun to set (although it’s not yet noon)
and ice takes hold of tree, small beast and river
for these are the ripened fruit your search has borne.
The door is singing, just as it was bidden,
and if you’d only listen, you would learn
how it can relieve you of your burden
(sorrow, guilt, whatever you have done).
Don’t worry that you seem to have forgotten
which hand you use to write with, your full name,
whether you have pets at home or children
or indeed, the reason why you came.
Look between your feet. A crack has opened
and you must choose which side to stand. Your pain,
which you express so fully, has been noted
but go now, leap the widening chasm, pray —
though you will fail — to make a solid landing,
scrabble for the edge, repeat your prayer,
look down at your feet, half-lost in violet shadow,
look up at your breath, freezing in the air
(watch how it hangs above you, drops and scatters
just as the door shudders and jerks ajar).
Who are you again? It doesn’t matter.
You asked for an end to grief. Here we are.
Yes, ours: the hands you feel around your ankles
pulling, hastening your fall. You hear
the singing door? It has your voice now. Thank you:
you’ve given it so much and now you’re free. 
from The Bridle (Salt Publishing, 2011).
Order The Bridle.
Visit Meryl’s blog.