Crossing Places

 At the crossing places when the river is still
and ghosts untangle themselves from the trees
you can feel their hunger for the living.

My reflection stares up from where rocks
lie heavy and mud is thick with longing.
Stepping stones pile one on another

invisible now to all but those who search
among the river sludge that marks so carelessly
layer on layer of human passing.

And there beside the laden bridge
a child is skimming stones
everything in the world still to know.


Things That Live Under The Roof

The last of the thatch would be gone today
exposed from under the corrugated roof
stinking with the dung of pine marten
rank and rotting. Glad to see the back of it.
New slates at last.

He climbs the tiny stairs to the room
he slept in as a child. Now the lid
has gone from the house he can see
the sun’s rising filtered
through layers of rain-filled clouds.

The swallows nested here – years
jagging through the broken window,
batches of them scooping the air for insects,
swirling through trees in the grove.

Pulling dead reeds from under the eaves
he finds the flute he hid from children’s
questing hands all those years ago, pushed too far
one winter’s night. Sniffs the musty scent of decay.
Timber rotten, years lost.

In the kitchen he opens the range where
turf flames smoulder, hefts the flute.
What was the use after all?
But his hand stays, incineration paused.

A cloth dragged from under the sink
rubs through years of grime and regret.

The tune he plays is old, like him
but the air that passes through the barrel
picks up the sound of years ago, fills
the room with notes strong as his youth.


Madame and Monsieur

Let the roses bloom for the moment,
flush of dark red Gallic abundance, roses overblown
with the joy of themselves, Tuscany, Cardinal de Richelieu,
a refuge of romance, ramblers flinging themselves
over red brick walls in almost-chaos,
garden reclaimed from bedsteads and bindweed,
Vita and Harold working as one, Rosa Albertine,
Buff Beauty, the wind-carried smells of Persia,
haven for bees, blackbirds turning fallen petals,
and, when all the visitors are gone, Madame
Alfred Carrière and Charles de Mills
nodding themselves to sleep.


These poems appeared in Nicki Griffin’s latest collection Crossing Places, published by Salmon Poetry. Learn more about Nicki on the Contributors Page.

Nicki Griffin
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