He called on me one evening, unannounced.
I didn’t recognise the smart pin-stripes,
the polished shoes. He said he had some news,
recited words which sounded Greek to me,
or maybe Latin, till he reached the bottom line
which is the same in any language.
He looked me in the eye, above his rimless glasses –
I knew him then, the skull beneath his well-groomed hair.
He left quickly as he had come, a brisk handshake:
Take care, he said, I’ll be in touch.
My stalker writes sometimes – I don’t reply –
sends photographs of blurred grey sharks circling a mass
which might be solid rock. When I wake at three
or half-past four, his shadow waits behind the bedroom door.
No sudden loss this but a slow winnowing,
each morning a harvest from the pillow,
a sink swirling with fronds of seaweed.
One cold Saturday
she has it clipped, cropped
down to the bare bone.
The shape of her head surprises,
not round as she had expected
but an oval, elongated Nefertiti.
Without their dark arches her unlashed eyes
confront the new face in the mirror;
at night she wears a woolly hat, on waking
rubs her hand across the stubble.
This room does not appear
on any plans of the house. I enter
through an unmarked door,
find blank walls of bleached calico
around a space stripped of distraction.
A single chair without a cushion,
no artificial flowers or dog-eared
magazines. No scum of congealed
milky coffee. The floor smells of teak
faintly seasoned with salt, like the deck
on a cross-channel ferry. Bare feet explore
cracks between the grainy boards, aware
of lurking splinters. There’s no dust,
no noise. The syncopation of my pulse
keeps silent time. The clock has stopped.
It is cool, not quite dark, outside.
The uncurtained window looks beyond
what might be water or bone-hard sand
under a four o’clock sky. Nothing disturbs
that opal interlude before the birds
begin their morning roll-call. Is it my turn
to go? I listen but do not hear my name.
Alison Michell lives in South London. When a busy career was
interrupted by ill health, she took the opportunity to pursue a long-held ambition
and concentrate on creative writing. She writes both prose and poetry, and
in these poems explores aspects of uncertainty and waiting.
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