Sappho Dives

Gum recession
of cliff jutting
into Ionian sea
sheds fragments

like numb fingers.
Pitted on rocky jaw
almost split by spray,
I cling – you rose here –

a tree-swung leap
taking flight, or coughed-up
a resin-cast carcass,
glazed between waves

Ἕγων δ᾽ ἐμαύτα
τοῦτο σύνοιδα.

I taste Leucadian salt,
flat heat, soft as lips
sponging paths left
on limestone arms

and this I feel myself
awaiting your ascent.

Missing Letters

In the aftermath
detritus lacks
several, known elements.

Some fragments have yet
to surface, porous
or locked, from passage.

Doorbell echo. Slipped
or shoved – each move
is set and scene

staged elsewhere. Caught
fibres of another,
blues and blacks unread

but somehow
shared. Exhalation
is only loss if

it is the last.

Still, we have reference
to share that missed
exchange, and I suspect

that there was nothing there
we didn’t know already.

Painted Ponies

These powdered rings are
cults of colour.
Firework stab of red
on flank and flush and sear of tobiano.
Patchwork textiles pass along
knotted hocks, rumps
swollen and dysplasia
tinting bones. Radiation glow
reads the history of nested
crests sunk beneath cowboy
cook-outs, starry-eyed
masterpiece or a coat rack?
Sharp cut blankets flash those
spots and darts of red on white
on black on gold on parade.
Blue-eyed background weighs
skin against marrow.
But this is no profile –
by all means, daub brushstrokes on
living paper, but do not hope that it
will take the weight.

Draw Reins

Lever is set
term to tool
and back again,
a wiry tug
to drop head
and wear elegance
like a shroud.

Rider’s hand writes
a foam narrative –
chin on chest
mouth on throat –
that raspy carousel
turns heels in
like a crank.

Intrusion zone
can still hear sounds,
press extinction
to the soles of
feet and mouth and
taste the flex of
carrot stick strike –

mining honey
fat on ribs for
memory of
muscle under
friendly fire.
All conversation
is one way.

Still, each horse
gleams under wraps,
plumped for show.
The buyers lean in,
count strides
from stud
to slaughter.

Slipped

You opened the door
quite unplanned, access
sieging border of
intent. Heads lean
in, close ranks to take
the new addition. Your way
is clean as lines
across your family’s
face, feeding their passage
too early for name.
Each path is ceded
with shoulders that reach
and need. We welcome
even those not noticed.
And yet, you’ve slipped away.
Now your act of entrance,
quiet and bewildered, is all the more
obscene for having left
unannounced. You sit in the hallway
of throats that bare and ache
for appellation. Bones turn
in sockets. Mouth will move
without a word. No more
the brace of waiting. Though none
have held you close, we all
must feel you go.

Sold On

It wasn’t my idea,
but you’ve carried the weight
all the same. Now, at last,
I can see you again.

You are ceded
territory – beloved space
of skin a cartography
flecked with age.

White rusts through
your hair, knees crevasse
where you slipped
off-screen, a footnote
I read later, up in Cambridge.

You traversed the coastal plain,
sent south. Augustan ticks burned
joints, fluid seeping
into each valley. Now fallow, you own
these fields where I watch
my step for snakes.

This time when we meet, no
rein feeds my current to you,
a resolute republic. I touch
the borders, draw glance,
and step back.

There are places
I could send your hair, lock
you between pearls upon my wrist,
for memory’s sake.

I palm your tail,
each tress a fingerprint.
It took years to grow
but only seconds to sever.