Someone like You
You’re here, a decade disappeared
and even though time’s arrow propels you
away from your cluttered past, a ghost
of someone like you haunts streets and cities
you’ve left behind, as if a memory, as if grief.
This is what happens to those who migrate.
Through terminal glass, as your plane inhales sky,
someone like you takes a new breath. As you fly
across the Atlantic, rain falling tenderly onto
the skin of the ocean, they return to
the apartment you vacated, their footsteps
upon its wooden floor echoing in the heart.
The wallpaper, desk, chairs, the bed
you once rose late in: these furnish
their mind as well as your own.
When you arrive in a new country,
they write an elegy. When you marry,
they write a sonnet. When your son is born,
their first collection wins the Forward Prize.
This is what you miss now.
The snow someone like you witnesses,
white and plentiful. The children they birth
to absent fathers. The favourite cinemas
that once swallowed reels of time
while you watched Lost Weekend.
The fermenting odour of Edinburgh.
The rich hours wasted in the Louvre,
Les Tuileries and Pere Lachaise.
The searing summer afternoons
on a tinderbox council estate.
Everything someone like you now sees,
smells, touches, hears, tastes and senses
displaces their existence from your own.
One day you’ll return to their land,
turn a key and open a door to find
someone like you extending their hand,
like a live electric cable, and the consequences
of that moment will haunt you forever
even as time’s arrow tears away
once more, and so too you.
Upon Medicating My Son
No exorcism for this.
How each limb fights
its’ puppetry is shadow-show
without relief. Like St Vitus’ Dance,
the physic is veiled in such curses
as my dark poetry no longer orates.
So now, the doll and pin, the pit and fire
are summoned in silent superstition
each morning the teacher cavils again
about my son’s cacoethes, the snare
of his murmuration and twitchery.
No infusion for this.
Forget the wisdom of ergot and vinca,
adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting,
lizard’s leg and owlet’s wing,
intuition is the wildest remedy.
So now, the school-bell ringing its elegy,
a mind-man brews strange words
like impulsivity and hyperactivity,
while a medicine-man prescribes
my son synthetic herba benedicta.
No spell for this
survives the centuries of mothers
who smouldered through the stake
and lore our lost relative were bound to.
So now my son swallows chemical curatives
and sleeps as if the past never was,
while the coven of night bewitches me
with the charm of his transformation.