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Gentle

Forgive me Sister for I have sinned
it’s been seconds since my last confession.
I sit in the dark accounting compassion. Shamefully
small change, in these damn tills.
Recently, I admit, things have dwindled –
a tall glass of vermouth,
a tin of oysters,
a priest that rinses
me of wrongness
even though
I haven’t even the grace
to believe.
It’s not enough, I agree.
Please understand I am looking
for a church where there is no God,
there is often holiness
within us, needy
for its own blessèd house, undo the
damage. Softly now
with your sermon, I am weary. Sanctitude,
solitude, it’s all language – let them speak
so we might overhear them
hidden in the vegetation,
hostile and hopeful with ancient
weapons. Let me pay my respects to the gentle-hearted
companions. If I so desire it. Let me pay in faltering litany –
‘O, what did you expect from your life?’ etc
Let me set the table with good silver.
Let me inquire into the navy shoes traipsing through.
Let me throw open the doors.
The garden is blooming with news!
We must diminish our sap, our sappiness,
our sickness, it is ivy, it is stuck to our souls.
Older, now, I know
how pleasure’s finances
are a matter of balance.
How malice can accrue
Careless daughter you are
you could say I did not pay attention
to what I allowed
my life, but the truth is, I would allow it, gladly,
even now. Purposefully, I carried
blue tidings (not my own), and when
they were taken from me, it was cruel.
To be so alone with one’s cold papers.
The shady conservatory. The eaves.
Hard to record this,
but why not be faithful in one ledger
at least? There are holes in my accounts,
and I warned you of this. Holes in what I held
myself to account for. Holes in my red capabilities.
We women of red. We red women. Red
behind the ears. Be still with your redness.
Please go on.
Relieving how, years later,
I can place an apricot
on a scale, and weigh a small blue
object against it. I can see it is only a
tidy fruit of difficulty –
manageable! I can divide it, I can lay it
on a plate for my sisters,
and ask them to eat it
on my behalf, and they would do it.
Just like that. Isn’t that the miraculous
duty of love?
Why must we continue
this troubling act,
why must we continue
to carry secret violets
into crowded rooms,
why must we place the bloom
of possibility at the feet
of another person?
We cannot help it.
Even though
we do not know then
whether we will plant
our lives on it, or have
joy knocked clean
from its stem.
We have all risked
ourselves. My risk became
something else.
I cannot keep intimacy
close enough to me.
What caused this?
What ails me?
You met the cruel gardener,
when you were very young.
He sweeps what was strewn
from the dark courtyard –
you paid for his labour
in damages, and you will keep on paying,
I cannot tell you for how long.
Still,
here is my offering
of violet parts. I am foolish,
we are foolish, foolish longing,
if I could slip out my soul
to protect it – right here on the violet ground – I would,
but it sure knows how to hang on in there.
Pray,
safe, safe
We are in the vicinity
of gentle. We can put down
our violence. We can unwrap
each soap we are granted
by clean armies of nurses
and get down onto the rug
and give thanks for it.
Now we know what the absence is
we will do our pink penance
we will preen our new fine fortunes
we will not walk our follies
on the mown grass under the moon.
Under the moon I am pruning
in yellow spectacles, I am watering,
pressing my little fingers into the soil.
You must be diligent with compassion,
now I know –
in one pocket the oyster tin, a little medal,
crossing the ward of hope. In the other
a voice saying,
I came here with my hat in my hands
full of too much
I demanded too much
Well,
I, too, made my demands.
But what of it?
When you are feeling weak
listen to ragged spirit in the violets
crouched and careful
petting dark animals
of dependence.
When you are feeling weak
there is no elegance
in your worship, the peat
where you pet the dog
that is inside you, that dogs
your goodness, which you need
to let off the lead, and be gone from.
But still if the dog will not relent
it really is quite pleasant
to let it trot along in the darkness
of your darkness. Boy is it good
to have company down here.
What does it mean to call your dog
from the dark cupboard,
and feed it the meat you have salted all winter?
You know what I mean by meat.
By my salt you will know me.
When you can no longer
bend your knee
to the red counsel
who distribute hope
in mean loaves
which you must take
to the designated area
and gnaw on, when the vermouth
has run dry and you don’t care for violets,
you never did, where there is no one to hear
you open your heart
and say –
This is not what I expected.
— what then?


ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTOR

is a poet and literary agent from South London. Her work has been published in Magma, Short Fiction, Best British Poetry 2012, Clinic and Ambit amongst others. She is working on a long sequence of poems on bitterness.

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