Phillip Gross

Two Poems

Writing Into the Lines

‘I want my funeral to include this detour.’
Michael Longley, Detour.

We come apart. In time. The nerve-knitting that we call an ‘I’
unravels. Which of you is at home when I ask, Where do you want
to go today?
We’re going nowhere. I hardly know if it is your or my
mistake, taking my son for me; if the dim weather of your funeral
with spits of rain is now, or last year, or to come. Let’s go to… to…
We’re lost in sentences that never quite arrive. Or widen, to include
more possibilities, more times, than any voice could hold, even this
bright sudden space in which we meet, the graveyard just a detour.


‘The tree house he had built, love poet, carpenter’.
Michael Longley, Tree House

All night in the wind it was the hiss, the itch, the
sheer unease of it at the bedroom window: elder tree
with a creak in its joints, its leaning too close to the house

as if it wished to be inside, inside the room where he,
all night, covered his ears. Who’d started this? He had,
saying the words: witch elder. The sound of it built

in his head. This will not leave him now. And so the love
of word for word gives birth to, misbegets, the poet.
Send for the axeman. Send for the word-carpenter.


‘What tension, walking a different path in another direction.’
Dorothy Nimmo, Homewards.

Direction was his forte, which way was north, priding himself that what
another would call being lost for him was the tingle of tension
in the nerves, the muscles. Trust me, he’d say and be off and walking
path after path, left, right, a knot garden of ways, each step a
different leading. Same difference, others would say. How indifferent
a man can be in the temperate zone, in a life like a worn path
walking him home, believing he held north and south in trust, in
tension, till the stroke. Till he woke to a strange room, a door to another….
What, he couldn’t say. The compass needle spins, north in every direction.


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