The opened suitcase asked a short reprieve.
‘Before you junk me, touch what I enclose:
A boy, a girl, a scorched Midsummer’s Eve.
Lost keys. A humid kiss. A book-bleached rose
In the pages of a paperback Catcher in the Rye.
A tape of Dylan, hoarse with lover’s pain.
(...“I laid on a dune…and looked at the sky”…)
He wanted her as rivers want the rain.
A night-tryst in the park. The burning gorse
Reflecting in the windows on the road.
They thought the houses burning, glimpsed the force
Of what it was they wanted, were afraid.
I close said the suitcase – I wrinkle, grown older;
But the flames in those windows still writhe, still smoulder.
Dalkey Island sulks; a bald Empress in a huff,
Her rubbled chapel and her tumbled port
Grown treeless now, where ancient winds rebuff
Bleak seals and rained-on goats, a ruined fort.
The suitcase dreams itself washed-up, beached;
An outcast lugged from a scudding yacht,
Rain-smitten, barnacled, kelped, wrack-wreathed,
Near a boy and girl kissing on a lobster-pot.
The suitcase gazes, dreeping in the furze:
They smell of one another and the sea-sodden peat,
Her hands inside his jacket – his in hers;
Soaked schoolbags in a tangle in the island sleet.
The current is fierce; pebbles crashing in the Sound;
The boy is long adrift, already long drowned.
This I saw said the suitcase. But I close what I contain.
Torn diaries. Old phone-bills. The tide-chart of a parting.
A card sent one Christmas. A wedding invitation.
I was stowed upside a closet in a dust-thick nook,
Hasped; clasped; unmentioned too long.
And I dreamed of some depth where the seaweed lives
And blue rumours of sunlight drift down to bless
Rusted buckles, cracked hinges, my sundered catches,
My secret combinations, my zips, my patches,
The pouches where an old letter might yet be asleep,
Swapped photos of their children.
I can live in the deep,
Closable like an oyster in the storm-blown seas,
But I know what is in me. A small, dark pearl
That grew from the grit in the sleep-crusted eyes
Of a waterfronting boy and a coast-town girl.
I roost on my wardrobe, near the spider-webbed rafter
Where I slumber, old baggage, and my closeted contents:
Maps of island warrens; mildewed gatherings of novels,
And other nights, too, when I was unwisely undone,
The riptide churning like a sting.
Fingertips on faces, on the silk of an abdomen.
This too is within me, but I keep myself shut,
For my locks would burst like berries if I fumbled towards that.
I tense my slackened straps, turn my handle to the wall.
I need not be taken down every day -- or at all.
My lining is torn. I am cluttered, dented.
A gaffer-taped rip down one seam of my hide.
I buckle when I open. I forget what I cost.
I am an orphanage.
I am property lost.
I console the gold flames in a window at midnight;
Crib-notes on The Sonnet; an unspooled cassette.
A shell. A quartz pebble. A poem attempted.
A Moving Hearts ticket. A comb. Divorced buttons.
These inhabit me now. I enfold them still.
And I, the rattle-bag, bunked in the murk,
Clutch-sack, salvage, I do not kiss and tell.
I accept my compartment. I do not need much.
With noisy, wanted children, my parents’ mizzled thoughts
Must jumble like cross-tides.
I suppose they lost touch.
Or they share a locked cargo, a stowed, precious ache;
Like a snow-globe they treasure but can seldom bear to shake.
Then press down my lid. Thread these worn, untracked zips.
Close me to the silence of kneading mouths.
Only spare me a berth in your hold -- nothing more.
For those nights can still shake me when the sea-storms roar.