Wednesday, 18 May 2011

In black and white

This one came to me very quickly, almost in its final form, one December night. It was published in the Cambridge poetry magazine Virtue without terror in 1990. A later appearance was in a payload anthology that I'd feel embarrassed to name.


The staring one's her sister Lily, who,
at Criccieth in nineteen twenty-two,
while others swam and paddled in the bay,
walked on the sea. It was a funny day.
The picture where she does it is so blurred
you can see only light, gone grey. They heard
her words, when they had got her back to sand
and shingle, but they couldn't understand.
They gave her tea. She bravely smiled a try
at drinking it. She could not. It was dry,
all liquids dry, dry as the blackest sun.
Three, four days dry. Then, as it had begun,
it ended: she could swim, and drink, and talk.
No one said anything about the walk,
certainly while their parents were alive.
Lily died in nineteen sixty-six.

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