Kissing Gate

Her great-grandfather
(whom she never knew)
was the town blacksmith.

Often, there were horses.
He'd fill his mouth with iron tacks
then spit them out
into blackened fingers
to drive them finally home
into newly shod hooves.

Sometimes there was art.
He'd draw rods of ferrous lava
from the fire
and with the muscular alchemy
of hammer & anvil
release keys and locks
and wheels and bolts—​​​​​​​
and the kissing gate!
where his great-granddaughter
would later hesitate, frightened.

For there was always that moment
on the long walk back
home across a memory
of Sunday meadows
when she was afraid.
The kissing gate would swing
then clang shut behind her
trapping her in a different field.
Then she would remember
and feel safe
as she touched the sun warmed
burnished metal
as if reaching for the protective hand
of somebody tied by blood.

The rain makes a smudge
of this seascape.

A blur of emerald bleeds
into bays of slate blue
& all paths trickle
towards the ocean.
You can smell it
carried in the mist
long before you see
its stoic sentinels—
droplets of the Atlantic
spraying hair
weighing down eyelashes
filling lungs.

The abandoned mines at Botallack
keep their deepest secrets
laced with arsenic.

Bricked up whispers chase
poisoned veins of tin
& copper
through the rock.

There's a diagonal shaft
beneath the breakers
where eight men and one boy
were buried undersea.
Carol Singing

In spite of the snow
the family with stinging smiles
came outside, into the cold.

The son was a werewolf.
He stood right at the front
to hear us sing
wearing the hairy face
he wore every day—
we guessed it wasn't a mask.
Spot lit on the pavement
we could not hide our horror
and croaked our Christmas carols
as feeble flakes swirled around us—
a grotesque tableau
in a glass ball.
The Sound of a Train

The eleven fifty-seven
would hum a rail side lullaby
luring us into dreams
of impossible journeys.
Sometimes we’d wake at four-oh-eight
as Victorian panes rattled in sash windows
and the Intercity swished
its sleepers over sleepers.

It wasn’t the splintering sound
that woke us that night—
the sound of pestled bone,
or the impact of an explosion
that bruised even the air
so that years later
a cloud, inky and
purple, still hangs over our town.
It was the sound of a train
that never met its destination.


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