December – Charlotte Ansell

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The Flood.

Yes, we are worried
about the rivers portentous
against our doors,
scrambling over the tops of our boots;
boring is very underrated.
But we will not be panic, we will be stolid,
we will eschew despair and manic
despite this falling away.

Oh for the days when we were unafraid
for our lives and those of others,
when the year’s tides did not bring
a shelling of bodies,
boats with a clamour of precious,
become dead weight,
treated to a welcome of
indifference, hate, closed doors.

No one thought the same waters
would invade our villages,
stumble over the cobbles
like a heaving stampede,
bringing the sick mud reek of ruin,
colour leeched from postcard pretty
to sepia, the prayers of toss turn nights,
rash deciding about what to save.

In the end there’s nothing cups of tea
a hug, or tins of beans can’t ease;
as humanity mucks in, mops up,
some Muslim, some Israeli,
and with the flowers appeased,
the carpets wrung out,
the washing lines hung;
some sense of being righted.

Kyrie Eleison, Christe Eleison,
united against engulfment or breaches
leaks or holes, we’ll take comfort
once more in symbols,

perhaps a dove, an olive branch.

 

 

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No certainties.

When you left,
she said leaving is a process not an act,
which made sense to me,
but didn’t explain
how you could go so effortlessly, seamless
you shut the door behind you as if keeping it open
would allow in the possibility of your return,
unwilling to take chances you said goodbye,
closed it firmly.
I didn’t know then
how final your gesture would become.

I’ve lost count of the times
I’ve sat by the water
reflecting on its silence, like yours,
giving nothing away.
Remembering the roses
you gave me on Valentine’s Day.
I kept the petals
soft as your fingertips on my skin,
later I scattered them on the wash
these rituals haven’t exorcised your ghost,
I still think I hear your footprints on the jetty
from the time you said
“I’ll be back later” and never showed.

I know a man who even on land
sleeps only between tides,
who tells me there are no certainties
like there are with the sea.
I like the water’s loyalty, its absolutes,
people know to wear life jackets, to take ropes,
whereas you were uncharted and I dived in,
taking for granted that I could swim.

I surface now to find nothing is ever
completely washed away,
your memory a constant presence
with the persistence of the tide
but the most frequent question
I want to ask is “Why?”

I hold my regrets
like diving with stones
but life still begs to be lived
even without you
and I continue, swimming.

 

 

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Containment.

He says there are three things

that always look worse than
they are; water, oil and blood.

Which may be true,
but the river shouldn’t
insinuate it’s way inside our hull,

puddling on the floor, blooming
febrile tendrils into concrete.
We’re not so naïve as to suppose
there won’t be some, or why have bilges?

So far it is a trickle not a flood,
a dim maze revealed,
puzzling through crevices
stubborn against the mop
that even as I wring it out

the pattern grows darker,
like a negative in the fixing bath
or those magic pictures
the kids used to have,
where brushing with water
called forth rainbows.

There are no rainbows now,
he has been waist deep in the canal
sticking Milliput into rivet holes
like the Dutch boy at the dam;
his heroics stem nothing.
We’re not going down just yet,
It could take weeks, or months.

Steel was supposed to hold.
It isn’t the big things that capsize us
It is the creep, the slowfall,
the peck peck peck violence
of the dripping tap, the seep
of our youth a tide going out,
the balloon puncture of sorry,
drowning in an old friend’s silence.

Who doesn’t need to feel held,
contained by a vessel
without holes, however small;
no one needs the kind of life
that leaks like a sieve,
no more so than when,
tortoise shelled,
we carry our home with us
and live on water.

 

 

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Siren.

It was never going to be forever,
despite his Nat King Cole serenade,
the handing over
of  his precious Man City shirt,
in student days I remember
as bleached out as a postcard
left on a windowsill,
pale as that week it snowed so hard
we huddled close round candles
in that underground bar
I can’t remember the name of
while the Victoria Mall got looted.
He was yet to learn
any challenge he set me
was like water to a chip pan fire,
wanting to look the big man
in front of his mates
pointing to the skiff
far out on Bala’s milky expanse
while I was already down to bra
and pants and wading in.
The water had a siren call
for  girls like me,
never happier than with my nose
nudging into the water’s neck,
each stroke an answer
to her cool embrace
diving into a pillow of waves
in a seduction of days
when it seemed the sun never broke through,
the lake forever ethereal and misted.

 

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Dear Canal,


thank-you for returning our youngest-twice,
she has no sense of danger as you know
but was grateful not to encounter crocodiles.
Also for spitting out our cat,
grumpy and bedraggled though she was,
that was a nice touch; she’ll learn.
If this winter you could
keep the freezing to a minimum
that would be nice,
and leave the hosepipe flowing?
We don’t need much.
Please continue to hold our home
in your slippery clutches,
we know you are still harbouring
knives, forks, spoons,
two pairs of glasses, the cordless drill,
a mobile phone;
we’ll live without those.