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       Growth, p.1

           Karin Cox
 
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Growth


  Growth

  Poetry by Karin Cox

  Copyright Karin Cox 2011

  Table of Contents

  Walking in Waterloo

  Friday Afternoon

  Just a Word

  Writer’s Block

  Debut Anthology of a Handsome Poet

  Old Photo

  On Wishing I Could Draw

  Patience

  Cousins

  Carnivorous

  Last Thoughts

  The Surprise

  Through the Wall

  Surrey Winter

  Stitches

  Gambling

  Summer Picnic

  The Lost Summer

  Cancer

  Picture of my Niece

  Veronese Hawkers

  Litter

  The Adriatic

  Sari

  Immortality

  Playthings

  Valley Markets

  Reader

  Leaving London

  Homecoming

  About the Author

  Acknowledgments

  Walking in Waterloo

  Step to the side.

  Elbows like compass points, I glide.

  Pull a shoulder forward,

  turn as sharp as the crackle

  of the loudspeaker.

  Dance with the crowd,

  navigate through faces.

  It is war at thirty paces

  just to make the train.

  Click of heels—there’s no place like home

  or platform four.

  Beyond the sea of frowns and suits

  a young girl scoots, bum snug in jeans.

  The man beside me trips.

  “Ex-cuuu-se me!” Lady lifts a wrinkled brow.

  I dash around this duelling pair.

  If I can pass that red shirt guy I might get there

  before the six-fifteen is full

  of bleating cattle breathing in the space.

  Friday Afternoon

  Office your somnolence rests,

  tousled hair on a too-tidy desk.

  It ripples like coffee rings,

  spreading in yawning O’s,

  or eyes widening hopefully

  in a silence that segues into sleep.

  Tired tremors of percolating printers

  mask the muffled urgency

  of inconsequential emails,

  filling inboxes

  like down piling into pillows.

  Just a Word

  Etched… that closing word you wrote,

  not without thought.

  Every day I spent with you,

  if nothing, taught,

  you do not lightly wake or think or talk.

  You knew the value,

  the currency and weight,

  of that small word you used—

  yet used too late.

  Writer’s Block

  My brain’s pecking pigeon has flown away

  momentarily

  s c a t t e r e d

  by the bliss-throwing hand

  of my heart.

  Kicked to the kerb on the day’s job,

  it wings off,

  following a trail of filmy feathers,

  into the burgeoning blue.

  Sometimes I can no longer hear

  its wings beating

  in the collapsed cage of my mind.

  Today, I hear its teasing, subtle coo.

  Debut Anthology

  Teeth shine

  white as the page.

  The same age as me—1975!

  I catch your smile,

  roll it in my mouth,

  bite it.

  It is authentic,

  that happiness of style,

  each tooth lovingly placed,

  every stain carefully erased.

  It is success—sharp-pointed,

  powerful—gnawing at every poet,

  filling your smile with sweetness.

  Old Photo

  You are lost in the spirit world,

  my long-haired boy.

  I crucified you, with your Jesus locks,

  forgot how they curled, gently real,

  on my pillow.

  I forgave you your sins,

  I moved along,

  filled whole bins

  with your sweet words.

  Made another me,

  got another place,

  but when I found your photograph

  I still touched your face.

  On Wishing I Could Draw

  Lines telling tales

  stretch feathered into line.

  They lift a hue or contour to define,

  lure, lead and dance into the air,

  blurring shadows, dark and fair,

  stretching graphite into eyes and hair.

  A Turin Shroud that pressed an image there.

  Patience

  Tick tock, again I wait

  for my life to return in open door of “sorry I’m late”

  and “so-so called” and “whosit dropped by”

  and “ate at work”.

  Empty smile and cold dinner plate,

  waxy candlelight and stale wine.

  Yet still I laugh and kiss and love this man of mine,

  and wish he’d never leave this room again,

  until I bade him “go away”,

  until I claimed my space,

  until my mind again was made

  to never love another face

  or hold another’s body to my breast.

  And willingly I give my hand to him,

  my soul a feathered nest,

  a treasury of this man’s greatness,

  I am so much a part of he

  —the destination of his lateness.

  Cousins

  We grew together, twisted around each other,

  grafted in shared experiences,

  before I said a word you had my tongue.

  Our girlish thoughts soared like birdsong,

  and sang themselves, when we were young.

  This blood we share,

  manifest in smiles and eyes and hair.

  We were the same, in deed and hope and name.

  But now? We bear different fruit you and I.

  My world is this of words, of men and mind … of me!

  Your world you teach to yours … in domesticity.

  And that is nobly you: to please and love

  and pardon as you do.

  But have I had what you can’t have?

  What you have, will it ever be my own?

  Your youth’s mine still, but have I lost you

  now we’ve grown?

  Carnivorous

  Skin slides on skin

  across slippery sheen of thighs,

  slick with sticky wet.

  They open wide—your eyes,

  and big hands flick,

  knead, tease, caress.

  Your muscles taut,

  our voices thick,

  we whisper in the mess,

  of limbs. Our lips

  kiss up paths of neck

  and trace curious fingertips,

  up curve of arching back.

  Grow whisper to a growl and we devour

  tastes, and sniff the air.

  For in this hour,

  our bodies’ caves are where

  sensual beasts prowl,

  and where we prey.

  With lolling tongues and ragged breath,

  we recreate ourselves, succumb to death.

  Then inside each other are reborn.

  Complete and full, we rest and kiss and purr,

  lazy-eyed, spread-eagled in the dawn.

  Last Thoughts

  Last thoughts of me:

  fiery
eyes of days I’ve scolded

  for you didn’t keep your word?

  Or songs you’ve heard

  come streaming from my lips

  in happiness?

  Or thin, tanned thighs entwined

  upon the couch, with sand in cracks

  rivulets of sweat amidst our hair

  and pebbles in our backs?

  Or maybe lying, squandered, plundered,

  in the morning that creeps,

  a thief, to lift my head from off your arm?

  Or a flag of hair?

  It lay, so gently there,

  remember?

  Upon your chest a while,

  stirring in your breath,

  tickling at your smile?

  So many, yet so few,

  the laughs and lusts that kissed.

  Your last thoughts of me, boys,

  come, what are they?

  Have you missed

  my voracious attitude?

  Will you remember, one and all,

  when we woke to day?

  Emails, eye creases, breasts and shadows?

  Or do they fade away,

  those thoughts,

  last thoughts?

  My last thoughts of you,

  your last thoughts of me—

  it had to end, but lives in memory.

 

  The Surprise

  How you startled me, age!

  Hands folded like tissue paper in my lap.

  You hold up mirrors, rippling with wrinkles

  to reveal the snarling demons

  that peek from bony, empty clavicle

  and slide down sinking breast

  to trampoline on soft white pudding stomach.

  I remember muscles used to flex and dance,

  firm below my jut of chest.

  Eyes used to sparkle,

  lips used to kiss and purse and pink.

  I used to soar and circle youth,

  but now with age I sink.

  Through the Wall

  Witching hour when I lay

  quiet-breathed, lidded low with love—

  listening.

  Your gentle cough—the cue.

  A night light pulls me safe

  to sleep’s familiar shores,

  rocking to a lullaby of snores.

  And I still hear your call,

  louder than before.

  My ears decipher it as shrieks

  of dolphins netted in the night,

  or the horror pierce of wings

  over beaches stretched and white,

  where calling seabirds flap off out of sight

  like bedclothes rustling to frustrated heaps.

  Who dares love in this hour,

  and who sleeps?

  Witching hour, not yet spent.

  Months of year like pillows propped—sighing.

  Fingers touch, we tease.

  Lips so soft suddenly grow hard.

  The tide’s turning swell, all tumbled over sand.

  Earlobe’s small pink shell

  receives and recognises each demand

  and answers with the gentle touch of hand.

  Gasps filter like reeds

  through thin film of want,

  like purple-opening anemones,

  that feel and finger every need,

  then snap shut suddenly,

  and sink beneath.

  How I regret not falling in this hour,

  not diving in this deep.

  Surrey Winter

  Dark nights and still mornings with frost on the ground,

  settling like Christmas lights on trees all around,

  naked and grey in the thin rising moon.

  So this is England on a December noon,

  where honey-coloured leaves surround in mounds,

  water nestles gently into puddles

  and all these sounds

  make winter.

  Stitches

  Steel sharpened slice,

  slick the sides with yellow butter.

  Spread muffins' delicate parts,

  like surgery.

  Crumbs cluster like nurses,

  or children at gates

  before school.

  Slip over them,

  stitch up with sticky fingers

  the warm blueberry tongue.

  I have warned you before

  not to lick your knife.

  Gambling

  You are the unlucky deal

  who does not keep herself—

  those sacred, weeping places—

  secret enough.

  Does not cherish the subtleties,

  the hidden, hard-of-hearing lies

  of femininity.

  No poker face, play your hand cards up,

  and watch another chosen from the pile.

  You are the joker!

  You are the wild!

  The smearing, snapping fingers,

  the dirty face, the glaring dumbness of a child.

  The card that sits, shuffled,

  to the bottom of the pack.

  You are the discard!

  Never come up ace.

  You should have played the game,

  closer to your chest.

  You should have bluffed,

  held something back,

  like all the rest.

  You are a gamble too great to take.

  Summer Picnic

  In summer when the crushed tomato sun

  bursts like strawberries

  in a melon sky,

  the creamy clouds melt

  silver-lining teaspoons.

  Turn the hours

  like butter in a churn.

  We lie in picnic’s perfect passion,

  kissing freshness in the dying fruits of spring

  and the timelessness of time.

  The Lost Summer

  The silver brilliance of the beach,

  lures me with a siren song of birthright.

  It reaches winter-whistled ears,

  tucked behind woolly hats

  —a soft cooee from Antipodean shores.

  It taunts: this is where you belong—here!

  Stretched out, glimmering, golden, still,

  watching the seagulls, jetsam of the air,

  glide in noisy waves.

  This is your summer skin.

  This, your blonde and salty hair.

  So sit you by that windowsill,

  watch the snow fall, thick and pale,

  and learn your place.

  This fondness in your heart for rain and grit,

  this merry-go-round lager-loving larf—

  you put your nationality on sale.

  You’re largin’ it, but you are not a Brit,

  my prodigal child—no, not by half!

  I’ll send you summer’s memory,

  sharp and clear,

  to slice through icy veneer like a knife.

  My girl, your halcyon days may well be here,

  but you’ll return

  —this sunshine fuels your life.

  Cancer

  There’s nothing more to life than but to smile.

  Smile constantly, for others and yourself.

  Smile prettily and force your eyes to dance.

  Smile for loss of hope and joke of chance.

  When you’re sobbing inside, force a grin.

  When you feel like screaming, make a joke.

  Smile until your head aches; laugh until you choke.

  Even as you’re poisoned from within—smile!

  Smile as you remember we’re all dying.

  We’re all Nature’s playthings; have a laugh!

  No point in not. No point in crying.

  Smile—enjoy her wicked sense of fun.

  Smile—it’s an antidote to hurting.

  Smiling’s the best work you’ve ever done.

  Smile, because it’s easier than killing.

  It takes less work than frowning
, just for one.

  Smile, though round the world our blood is spilling.

  Smile—all the world just loves a smiler.

  Will someone love you just because you are?

  Smile for war, disease, deceit and liars.

  Smile—because you’ve managed to this far.

  Smile and you’ll feel better in the morning.

  Smile and no-one ever needs to ask

  if you’re OK or if you’ll see tomorrow.

  Even if you’re drowning in your sorrow,

  it doesn’t matter if you wear that mask—SMILE!

  Picture of my Niece

  She sits—a grain of sand, a shadow on the beach,

  life’s haul of shiny, flapping things before her feet,

  with eyes that tumble like the sea

  to childish thoughts and innocence beyond the adult reach.

  Her pointed finger, parted smile,

  a jaunty hat cocked on her fair-curled head,

  I gaze at her awhile,

  and my thoughts linger, on the fish she pokes,

  so still and dead.

  Yet she is so alive, with so much joy,

  it radiates to me from far away,

  and then I want to be near her, to tell them:

  “Perhaps I shall be back now any day.”

  Veronese Hawkers

  Eyes polished to a shine like jet, gleam from terracotta streets.

  A snap of clasp, mosaic bags tan themselves on pristine sheets.

  Burnished brown and russet red, like Africa, where that land meets

  Italy’s soft watercolour, as Verona’s sunset fleets.

  He props some open, leather licks inside,

  the callused tickle of a lion’s tongue.

  Smooth fingers prise compartments of all size.

  “Smaller bag,” he gestures, “here it hide!”

  Handbags swing like heavy fruit upon his shining arm.

  “He’s empty; you make full,” he smiles. Such charm.

  His grin is ivory wide.

  She shakes blonde head, he cannot hold her eye,

  “But Miss...! Wait Miss...” He watches fuller handbag pass him by.

  Down the high-walled canyon stretch, she passes to the next.

  Prada, Hermes, Louis Vuitton all lie, animal hides under Italian sky.

  Downstream, a brother asks, his hopes pitched high,

  “Lady, look! Chanel—you want to buy?”

  They work like this, herd shoppers in a pack.

  Hyena laugh and heads pop up: alertly cocked and black,

  to listen, slick as meerkats.

  “POLICE!” It comes a whisper, then a call.

  Pull sheets up into giant santa sacks.

  One to the next take empty bags upon their backs.

  Like leopards in the dusk they leave no tracks.

  Litter

  For years I wrote for love of living,

  then years in tribute to disdain.

  I walked the streets, eyes primed for sorrow,

  littering words like falling rain.

  I turned my swollen eyes to heaven,

  an empty void in my science brain,

  and all my nerves unfurled in knowing,

  there was no God, just falling rain.

  Now I struggle for a sentence

  to dull my mind’s slow-growing pain,

  astringent lines too thick yet hollow,

  can’t explain the falling rain.

  The Adriatic

  This morning I awoke

  and last night’s world

  engulfed me in your arms.

  The words I spoke

  spun light upon your lips

  and kisses in your eyes.

  I heard your sighs

  like tiny charms

  hanging close to my heart.

  Sari

  Your mouth was never gentle when we kissed,

  it tasted of far away minds,

  of lands steeped in saris,

  tied up in parcels of your past.

  You kept her smell, like a vase of dead roses,

  or letters curling in a language that she loved.

  I gulped down your greedy kisses,

  washed them down with wine.

  Your eyes were never tender, cold as mist.

  They watched me naked through half-closed lids,

  searching for my knowledge of your lie.

  They hid you well, like an unearthed grave,

  or a lonely drain.

  They tumbled like shutters at nightfall.

  They washed your sins clean with dreams.

  Immortality

  Life lay grey in the gutter

  where feathers ruffled in the wind,

  fingers flipping through books.

  The body of a pigeon.

  We all passed and looked,

  our funeral procession taking in

  the mauled dull skin,

  the eye, cloudy as a seer’s.

  We all there saw

  the passing years,

  the taut claw of time,

  clenched and stiff,

  clutching at the branch

  of life.

  Fading to grey … to gutters,

  and to sorry passers by.

  So small beneath the omnipresent sky.

  Playthings

  He used to take words

  and coax them around me,

  wrap them in the wrinkled nose of his wisdom.

  Warm and wooded he would sing me

  a chorus: the cocoa cup of contentment.

  He made me his high note with a whisper of smoke.

  Filled his lungs with me in the morning.

  When mist crept capriciously on the glass,

  his eyes would see the kiss of a sprite.

  He’d bubble up to laugh and meet it mischievously with fingertips.

  He could make words mysterious,

  but we met lips one night

  when he was serious

  and words were not his playthings.

  Valley Markets

  Stalls stand like an offered hand,

  waiting to be introduced,

  or rush upon each other in frenzied war

  of emerald, scarlet, saffron—all shout

  or whisper of small treasures, shining things,

  semi-precious stones, records pitched at yesteryear,

  forgotten words stacked in dog-eared books.

  And look, what have we here?

  Innovation flits between the aisles,

  glazed bowls congealed with blistered texture,
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