By the pool, the white hart, unmoving
while mist wraiths his hooves and ankles,
his clean lines hazed by haunts of drifting damp.
And behind him the woods, similarly tulle-draped:
pale swathes of winter breath hang on the hazel.
The cobwebs on the elder drip and trickle.
His eyes meet mine across a meadow’s distance:
two sloes, unsouled, but knowing all the same.
I’ve thought myself a ghost, invisible:
I’m now seen and unseamed, peeled scalp to foot.
There is something there, at the corner of the eye,
beyond the horizon, gathering, massing like clouds.
A key has turned in me. He leaves.
I am opened and this beginning hurts,
a merciless birthing.
The heat is forcing the herbs to release their perfumes.
They thicken the air as if crushed beneath my fingers.
I keep to the paths. Sweat caresses the small of my back
under layers of cloth that hold down the swell of my flesh.
I am never alone. Three paces behind, they follow,
conversing in small voices, fickle as doves.
I press my palms to the earth as if it could open.
The voices pause, then flutter, resuming their billing.
The dust flicks up like the tongues of little devils
and marks the hem of my skirt with its insolence.
The cage of my ribs is too tight for the wild bird in it.
My heart flaps its wings up, down, up, down. I’m waiting,
these baked and dreary days, for something
to happen; great love, perhaps, or an evil with beak and claws.
Kitty Coles lives in Surrey. Her poems have been widely published and have been nominated for the Forward Prize and Best of the Net. She was joint winner of the Indigo Dreams Pamphlet Prize 2016 and her debut pamphlet, Seal Wife, was published in 2017. http://www.kittyrcoles.com