Evening falls, and rooms grow dark,
then light. Through the open window,
a cricket starts up its whirring. Steam rises
from the kettle. The tea grows stronger –
no words today: a tightness around
the throat. A weight like a thrown stone.
Sprigged flowers. What has the mind
to do with such wallpaper? No way
to knuckle through to its imaginary
elsewhere – like Marvell’s green, a screen
eye goes out through into its living place.
I’ve spent too long in the house.
In the night, memory’s garden coalesces.
On another island, peaks pushed together,
then abandoned: a child’s careless empire.
The creeping moss, deep over cottages
puzzled from rocks rank with burning peat
and livestock; the curtained beds are hollowed.
Heaps of stone. Heaps of ash. A shovel.
Ice wind off the sea. Memory says:
move this. The morning’s work. I
sit at the desk. Its landscape is grey-
green spores spreading out of the dream
place, its growing shadow. Its bloom.
The rot runs deep. We slice at dead
tissue, find only blackness – an eclipse
in the star-pinned night. Light glancing
off a window swung open across the bay:
a clean blade of hurt. We break ourselves
open. The world pours in, feeds on the void.
I mean: this window, open. Night sounds
in the room. Out there the sea is turning
its cut surface back into its whole flesh
tirelessly over the sand, the sand keeps
repeating its sound of an in-drawn breath.
Night so dark stars slide down the glass.
Dew swollen like jewels on webs,
strung taut across invisible threads.
On the shelf, a family of glass jars
enclose damp soil, stones, ferns smaller
than a secret thought. In the Surgeons Hall
they display a gnarled foot, an abscessed tongue –
The tongue speaks. It wants to speak
of the fern: image infolding mind, mind’s
green fractal of itself. It wants to speak
of the stone: O. Self-sufficing.
In the mouth of the glass it wants to speak.
It speaks blotch. Says: This. This.
Note: This poem is a collaboration between Eileen Chong and Lisa Gorton. Following the theme ‘Generosities of Spirit’, the two poets responded to each other’s work, however it unfolded, each contributing three couplets in turn across four parts. This was meant as a creative act of trust and responsiveness.