Monthly Archives: August 2014

Seasons

 

The season’s turning now. Late summer’s long-held breath

is finally exhaled. Now autumn’s alchemy

has seeped its way inside the trees to turn their leaves

to copper, bronze and gold. The sky’s no longer blue;

its cobalt wash is painted out with layers of grey.

The wind blows cooler, damper, stronger from the sea.

The river’s high and brown, and summer’s dusty paths

have turned to muddy tracks. The scent of wood smoke drifts

inside from down the street. We stack logs on the porch.

I find it strange to think that half a world away

the season’s turning too; that where I once called home

the spring is breezing in, and kissing grey to green.

 

(C) Helen Lewis, 2006 

 

Advertisements

The gift

                                                                                             

You give me love. Its frame is cracked,

its silvered face is pock-marked black.                                                                                              

 

You say, ‘It’s only second-hand,’

I squeeze your arm. I understand.

 

I hang your present in the hall.

I screw it tight so it won’t fall.

 

I gaze beyond the glass and wood.

I never knew I looked this good.

 

 (C) Helen Lewis, 2006

 

 

 


August

 

The distant hills, patched dusty green and gold,

Dissolve and ripple in the evening haze,

And rivers trace a winding azure web

Through sunlit fields where lazy cattle graze.

 

Just here, knee deep in waving meadow grass,

The sinking sun still warm against my cheek,

A sighing ash disturbs the heavy hush.

My heart stands still. I’d swear I heard you speak.

 

I lie down under weeping willow boughs,

Where clouds of midges dance against the blue,

And close my eyes to ease my memory

Back to that short, hot summer spent with you.

 

Now interfering sight is out of mind,

My other senses exercise their skill,

Conspire against my crashed and burned-out heart

To make believe you’re lying with me still.

 

The feathered grass that strokes my goosebumped skin

Mimics your restless touch – a callous plot!

The gentle breeze that plays across my lips

Becomes your breath, so tender, sweet and hot.

 

The soothing swish of branches in the wind

Echoes your urgent whisper in my ear,

That everything you’ll ever need in life,

Is everything you have right now, right here.

 

But everything I gave was not enough

To tame the wayward fire of your love.

And now the chill of nightfall closes in,

While drifts of stars dust indigo above.

 

The distant hills, washed dusky grey and mauve,

Smudge out to shadows now, as darkness grows,

And rivers trace a glinting silver web,

Through moonlit fields where drowsy cattle doze.

 

While shards of your deception stab me still,

Our supernova joy explodes the pain.

And even though I sit at wisdom’s feet,

If you stood here, I’d rise, and fall again.

 

(C) Helen Lewis, 2004


‘How to…’ or ‘A woman’s guide to flirting’

 

How to send an astronaut into orbit:

            Ask him how much thrust his rocket produces.

                        Tell him he’s go for insertion.

                                    Show him you can perform a docking manoeuvre.

 

How to inflame a fireman:

            Ask him if you can try on his helmet.

                        Tell him you like his hose.

                                    Show him you can administer mouth-to-mouth.

 

How to sweet-talk a chef:

            Ask him if you can toss his salad.

                        Tell him mouth-feel is all-important.

                                    Show him how extensive your menu is.

 

How to hang on to a rodeo rider:

            Ask him if you can ride his bull.

                        Tell him he’s stayed on the longest.

                                    Show him how strong your inner thighs are.

 

How to tie a yoga instructor in knots:

            Ask him how long he can hold it.

                        Tell him you’ve studied Tantra.

                                    Show him your best wide-angled leg pose.

 

How to talk dirty to a health inspector:

            Ask him if he comes here often.

                        Tell him you need scrubbing down.

                                    Show him what you can do with a pair of Marigolds.

 

 (C) Helen Lewis, 2006


Apollo and Daphne

 

Rome in August. Only the tourists and the feral cats are left.

Fugitive from the heat, I take sanctuary in the Villa Borghese.

Beyond its heavy doors, the squeak of trainers and the smell of beeswax.

 

In a wedding cake of a room, a sculpture in white marble:  

A youthful Apollo chases a naked Daphne. As his hand touches her waist

She turns away, arms reaching up, fingers sprouting leaves,

Toes sending forth roots, bark closing around her legs and hips.

 

This binary star pulls me in to its orbit.

As I circle my perspective shifts.

 

Now the bile of Daphne’s revulsion rises in my throat.

Now the softness of her belly gives way beneath my fingers.

 Now my skin tightens and scabs over.

 Now my fingers are pinched between closing layers of bark.

 Now I’m high with the sugar-rush of rising sap.

 Now I breathe in the warm, woody scent of bay leaves.

 

I stop.

Below Daphne’s feet words are carved into the plinth –

Mediaeval graffiti ordered by a fat cardinal:

‘Pursuing earthly pleasures always ends in tears.’

An object of passion and beauty ten million years in the making

Reduced to a sound bite in Latin.

 

I close the cover on my mental notebook.

 

In the eternal city

Gian Lorenzo carves scalpel lines in space-time

While I hack away at nothing

With a sledgehammer of words.

 

(c) Helen Lewis, 2009


The prize

Gladys couldn’t recall ever having won anything before, and now a nice young man from the local radio station was on the telephone, informing her that she’d won first prize in that month’s phone-in astronomy competition.

Gladys first discovered astronomy at the age of eight. Her brother was given a telescope for his tenth birthday, but soon lost interest. One frosty night during the blackout, a bored Gladys casually pointed the telescope at the moon and ignited a lifelong passion.

She hadn’t had a telescope for quite some time. Apart from any other considerations, she now lived in a one-bedroomed flat and she would have spent all her time tripping over it.

As soon as the young man hung up she realised she’d forgotten to ask what the prize was. No matter; it was being delivered tomorrow and she’d find out soon enough.

As usual, Bella started barking just before the doorbell rang.

“Where do you want the telescope?” asked the courier.

Gladys stood impassively for a moment, and then put her hands to her face to wipe away the tears that were beginning to stream down it. The courier placed his arm around her shoulder and helped her onto the hall chair.

“Why are you crying, love? Don’t you like it?”

“No, I love it,” sniffed Gladys. “I couldn’t have asked for a better prize.”

“What’s the matter, then?” the courier asked.

So Gladys told him, while Bella the guide dog gently nuzzled her tear-salted hands.

 

(c) Helen Lewis  2004


Pocket money, December 1972

Tom stands on tiptoe

his forearms resting on the counter.

He slides one sweaty palm aside to reveal

the full moon of a ten pence piece

against a black Formica sky.

On the shelves in front of him

constellations of sweets twinkle invitingly:

gobstoppers as big as Jupiter,

liquorice Catherine wheels that suck in light like a black hole,

sherbet fountains shaped like rockets,

a swarm of asteroids masquerading as chocolate raisins,

and coconut mushrooms, modelled on life forms

that float in the syrupy seas of planet Zyx.

‘The usual?’ asks Mr. Bradshaw

pushing his Joe 90 glasses up his nose.

Tom nods.

With a magician’s flourish Mr. Bradshaw produces a bulging paper bag

twirled over at the corners

and palms the coin.

Tom mumbles his thanks and scuffs out,

the door shutting with a clunk

and a clang of the bell.

Outside Tom opens the bag and peeps inside:

a packet of space dust

and two dozen flying saucers.

Tom pops a pink flying saucer in his mouth

and lets it dissolve on his tongue.

A quarter of a million miles above his head

two men get ready to leave the Moon.

 

© Helen Lewis 2011


%d bloggers like this: