Sunflowers

for Swithun

Your face shines, grave
and charming as a small moon.
I hear you holding your breath
while finger and thumb encompass
each neat striped seed,
setting it clean in its peat-pot
damp with earth, each hole
dibbed by your finger as deep
as one pink nail until,
with crumbs of earth nudged
over each one, we breathe out,
our relief sounding strangely
loud, like a wave breaking.

As pairs of leaves begin thrusting
clear of the earth, we run
with gifts of water; they thrive,
wheeling sunwards on green
wings; the sun draws them
to itself, as the moon the sea,
and the great heads curl and flame.
At night they hang fire, sinking
with the sun, and know nothing
of the moon’s rising; as the tide
turns in the bay, rocks
push through the sea. Sun
stirs the slow coronas.

Grown almost twice your height
they are galleons breasting the upper air,
and you, like a small cartographer,
busy with charts and rule,
plot their upsurge upon a graph.
In my dream you stand among masts,
your face to the moon in the shrouds,
while towards you black rocks are edging
and crawling, and I, helpless
upon a headland, signalling, signalling . . .
The garden lies gale-wrecked,
and we thresh among broken masts
and wet flower-heads for salvage.

Skating out of the House (1997)

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