A Hundred Gourds 2:2 March 2013
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Claire Everett - UK

Hill View

scribbling out the words
so you won’t see them . . .
the weight of crows
on the skull-white boughs
of the lightning tree

Lying beside you in the darkness, I listen to your breath’s ebbing tide, and when, at last, it breaks on the far shore of sleep, I head for higher ground. Whether the wisteria is in bloom, or the Virginia creeper is in the height of its crimson, the door to the house is always ajar.

Behind lightly-closed eyes it might be dawn, in which case the shutters will already be thrown wide; if it’s dusk, I’ll take the candle burning in the hall to illuminate my way. Still, I startle at the creaking of the third and fifth stairs even though I have long known there is no one here but me. I cross the landing, seeking out my favourite rooms. So many doors remain closed, but whether they’re locked, or not, I cannot say because I will not test the handles. Sometimes I press my ear against cold wood, but ghosts make no sound when they pace in cobwebbed rooms, wringing their mouldering hands. I pass the grand piano, trailing my fingers across the yellowed keys, wishing I could play.

a ballerina
in a broken music box
the cursive
of a black swan
on the midnight stream

In the nursery, I wile away a moment’s hour rediscovering forgotten toys: winding, spinning, rocking all the ones I never had. The peg doll family abides in blissful ignorance. Mother, in her red polka-dot dress, smiles all the way through her non-life. On the other side of the room, a picture window looks out across the moors. If it’s night, I’ll linger, wrapped in a shawl of moonlight, holding a memory to my breast.

I cannot leave without stopping by the studio. It’s always the same, as if the artist just stepped out and will return any minute. Here is where I grind words on the inkstone, sweep them across wet paper, etch them into granite. Birds. So many birds! The crow that alights with autumn; a rumour of snipe in the wind-honed reeds; a godwit pinned to its rain-planished reflection, its head tucked under its wing. If I’m lucky, I’ll bring an image back with me. And then, I’ll make my own crossing to the far shore.

keeping the lid
on another day . . .
what if you could see
these screaming swifts
describing the blue


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