Sunday, 18 December 2016

Yarn in black

Pleased to have this poem published recently in the excellent poetry webzine Picaroon.

Black dolls

She sits in swirling dust
as she knits her dolls
with fine black yarn.
Only dolls. Only black,
even their eyes.

All day
in a shaded room,
where the motes float
in rays filtered
through tiny gaps in blinds,
she crochets around coaldust,
knots stitches in silk,
makes tassels.

Tiny fingers create the Marquesa de Santa Cruz,
covered in her mourning lace,
from her hair to her tiny, pointed shoes.

One plain one purl
and there grows Goya’s Black Duchess,
mantilla floating in a breeze,
veils and shawls, layer on layer.
A fine figure in billowing skirts,
a flash of scarlet pinches her waist
above the frills and flutter of taffeta,
twisted and woven,
where lace rustles
around the swish
of satin.

She knits and
she frowns at the little blaze of red.
Even her piano plays only in minor keys.

All day she sits in the swirling motes
as she knits and knots and twirls her yarns.
Only dolls, only black,
they sit in twilight
in perfect rows on shelves,
all around the sooty room.

While in her night time dreams a crow calls
from a lone tree,
rooks gather on great towers,
shouting their stories over
broken walls
and a raven ruffles his perfect black wings
ready to fly.

The blue-black backed gulp of swallows
swoops low
over a locked-up memory in her darkened life;
and a green sheen on the black of the magpie’s tail feather
shines bright in her closed-in mind.

Black swans gather
in their grace,
a bank of sails on a sleepy lake,
they seem made of coal,
hacked out of ancient strata,
fashioned from the gloss of black minerals.

No light escapes their slick patina,
they suck in her surprise
at seeing them at all,
and glide with it
and mill together among weeds,
trapped in tar.

Red squints of beak
show among feathers that are made by oil on knives,
and flashes of scarlet bleed under scrapes.

I am the one,
the black swan –
to my song.

But their chorus has no tune.

Necks curl and bend,
mirror each other, make hearts
in their mating game,
but she sees only the tar-backed black,
the swan black, and she’s gone back …
before she was born.

She wakes in the hour before dawn
to the blackbird’s song,
and a taste of bitter on her tongue.

As light seeps in through cracks,
she rises,
and looks first
to her rows of dolls.

Unravelled yarns,
threads of black
fall in coils,
like the soft hair of
the Marquesa,
a thousand
black strands in curls and waves,
hang loose from ledges,
in the coal-dusty cold room.

And all day she sits
in swirling dust
as she knits.
Only dolls
only black
even their eyes.