He had soft sage and lavender fingers
When his mother took him up the estuary
To his brother’s tiny grave. Her first-born,
She told him, still-born, but still borne.
For months she carried him, thinking only
Of his potential, then lost him like a limb.
Suddenly become a second son,
He doesn’t feel like a miracle.
Unless they’re supposed to grow
More insubstantial, year by year.
Now he can’t help but hold sensations,
Keep them pressed into the soft mud of
His muscles, either side of his stony spine
Like the smell of cold grass, broken and
Sharp, wound round his little knuckles
Until he felt the hair-thin roots give.
He shuddered and stopped tugging
But those blades bit back and dug
Their imprint deep into his fingers.
Surely his brother would only be bones,
And even those pitted in this acidic soil.
Porous surfaces never used to panic him,
But the stinging sight of honeycomb now
Swells his tongue back to close his throat.
He tries to run, to only glide over the earth
And so ward off its patient hollow hunger,
But gravity forces his feet to knead the ground,
And long for rest on this grassy headland.
Though his soles are callused they still sweat,
And the veins show through his instep,
Blue and green like branches and streams.
Thick clay skin means nothing
When the cracks threaten to leak
His beaten blood.
Even the sea breeze bores into him
But the warm honey sun is soothing
And from this high the sand is as solid
As anything can be.
Every direction leads, he thinks,
Not to headstones holding old bones down
But to ribs exposed like mangrove roots.
Death happens, not easy but often.
Entropic, all matter is mostly vacuum,
It would be easy for lethargy to sink into
Atoms, and for weary rock to turn to sand.
Observed closely enough, coastlines are infinite,
And molecular gaps keep anything from ever truly
Touching. But somehow matter retains, regains,
Its energy, even advances to animation when
Bodies meet, or bloody waters break and
Out of the lather erupts something new.
Not easy but often, life happens too.
She laughed out sea roses as a child,
When her father warned her off wanting.
Still the smell of certain perfumes and the sea
Clearly recalls to her the sticky softness of
Petals unfurling and clinging to her tongue
Before tumbling off the cliff of her lips.
He told her she had been born too early.
Half-knitted, with fluid in her lungs
And a film of foam for skin,
She might have unspooled again.
But she chose to cough and cry instead.
Surviving with just this, she sometimes still
Feels like a miracle, and marvels at herself:
No tiny flame wind’s whim could flicker out.
By holding heart-sized stones she learnt to
Swim in a lake as cold and sharp as glass.
Her lungs already knew the worth of leaking,
But gravity needed help to hold her down.
With hands like lace she dried and sewed
Lilies and larkspur between her petticoats
And cocooned herself, as if with paperbark
Then paced, finally leaving distinct prints,
But passing unstung through the bees in the
Clover, over pine needles and rosemary, into
The solid embrace of the wind. Sand blows
Into the old scars of her eyelids, still she reaches
For the shape into which she wants to grow.
She will expand, year by year, from within,
And when all her layers chafe she knows
Her pumice-light bones will keep her afloat.
The bruises that bloom and linger only show
Where everything else ends and she begins.
Her pulse beats in her lips, drowning out
The pounding waves. Her heart had been,
Before her birth, only ghostly filigree:
Useless, however delicate and complete.
Now she’s dense and centrifugal, feet planted
In shifting sands, scoured by salt spray and
Spitting rain. She can afford to shed a little;
She’s known plenty of loss, but no lack.