Catholic Distance University

Cambridge, January 2001

Sally Thomas

     Seagulls surf the wet
Updrafts over roofs
	A hundred miles inland. 

Every weather's a weather
	Of gulls, a scream against
The bottle-blue or cloud-

	Mottled sky, the one
Constant besides rain
	Spittling the window: 


These birds who revel in being
	Blown off-course. If
They had any idea,

	That is, where they meant
To go in the first place.Glyph
	I was never a believer

In resolutions. What's resolve 
	But another word for wish? 
Ask the fisherman's wife

	How far she got on wishes. 
Would I resolve, say, to let
	A third child choose

Itself? What can I 
	Say I wish for? Just now
My two already-wished-for

	Children, resolved into flesh,
Gallop down the hall,
	Speaking in whinnies. 

I wrench the door open 
	And shout, Inside feet! 
What are inside feet? 

	They'd be justified in asking. 
We have the same feet
	Wherever we go. Instead

They say, Okay. They wait
	for the door to close. Gallop
gallop, neigh neigh. Does control

	End at conception? Or
Only our belief in it? 
Glyph
	The rain's tsunami threatens

To wash the whole country
	Into its inhospitable
Hinterland, the sea. 

	We inhabit a culture of rain,
Learn to speak its commonplaces: 
	Wellieboots, waterproofs-as if

We needed to prove water's
	Existence. We think in a language
At once ours and not ours. 

	At breakfast, our son holds up
A spoon. What's the English
	Word for this? He won’t believe

That spoon could possibly be the answer. 
Glyph
	Where does it come from, this desire
To shape-shift, to be, say, 

	A horse for the afternoon? 
Perhaps some memory
	Persists, of pre-life, 

Or not pre-life, but life
	Before it's named, flesh and blood, 
Yes, and also possibility. 
	Perhaps children remember 
Without knowing
	The call that makes them 

Step so fluidly out
	Of their bodies, though
They never entirely

	Leave-the body
Goes with them
	Through locked gates, 

Across snowy pastures
	Their hooves leave unprinted. 
Glyph
Empty branches tap

	The leaded chapel window: 
Stainless daylight, white
	Walls, the unprompted

Revelation of the world
	Not watching us at prayer-
At the motions of prayer, our lips

	Moving over words
Which like our own names
	Begin to lose sense

When we overhear ourselves
	Whispering them-not watching
But with us, cold, 

	Immaculate, clear. 
Glyph
We never imagined having 
	To say, Take your feet

Off the celery. Don't lick me. 
	The corkscrew is not a toy. 
What did we expect? 

	Amnesia, entropy
Extend their present-tense
	Mercies to our children who are

Not whatever we dreamed:  
	Vague, two-dimensional
Composites of our childhood

	Photographs. Quiet. Able
To play the piano. Sew. 
	Finish what they begin. 

Absolve us of ourselves. 
Glyph
	After church, a friend
Offers her baby. She
	Drinks her coffee, grateful
For a minute, two hands free. 
	The baby snuffles, exhales

Warmly into my neck,
	And I think, Oh, 
It didn't hurt so much. 

	And other lies, as if I thought
Nothing of having hands
	Open to take the weight

Of a child who won't wake me
	From an hour's sleep. This
Can pass for a decision. 

	My translation of a word
Like goal. Or sane. 
	I could fit a travel cot

Between my bed and desk-
	Anything's possible. Or if
Impossible, still possibly worth doing. 
Glyph
	Cot:  what the baby
Sleeps in. Crib:  what
	The manger becomes when surrounded

By plaster statuettes wearing painted
	Looks of reverence or weariness-never
Surprise, though you would think

	Someone might have been surprised. 
Glyph
In bed, in the borrowed
	Time before the alarm,  

We hold each other, hoping 
	Maybe this time it won't 
Happen, the day will hang

	Back shyly at its own
Threshold. Even now
	The sky is paling, a white

Sliver between the curtains. 
	Eleven years married, are we
Any closer to knowing

	What we want? Our wedding
Vows told us precious
 	Little. Not what to

Expect, only to cleave, 
	That strange word which means
Its opposite. I close

	My eyes. This could be
A stranger's body my hands

	Move across, mapping again
Desire's universal, alien terrain. 
Glyph
	O for the wings-but where
Would I go? Where are you not? 

	All of you, husband, children, 
Calling my name, calling me
	Back from myself, back into

Myself. Erasable
	Only by death. This
Must be what it means,

	One flesh. I carry
Your voices in the pocket
	Of my ear. We speak

Of making vows, lovemaking, 
	As if such things didn't exist
Until we think. 

	And they occur to us. 
Glyph
Morning wind hurls itself 
	Against the house, forces rain
In through the absence

	Of caulking. In watery daylight
Beached raindrops glint
	Like jellyfish along
The windowsill. Outside, 
	Birds are still free-falling
Like leaves across the housetops, 

	Blown away but never out of the sky.

Comments

  1. So beautiful! Thank you!

  2. Lovely – saving this for revisits! Thanks!

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