The Body Broken
Mass and Sunday mourning pass the chancel black
and chalice-back of I, spire-spined and last to part
my plumping bud to take the nocturne wine. Mine
the softly hills, mine the spill and steeple-swing
of fruiting breasts and bells, yes. We break the bread
and bless. Lady in the lancet holds the apple mocking red.
Dappled chant and dark, ahead the blood-bright night
and first-light glass of gasping Eve, winter’s heave
hangs always here with heads that bow before the vow
to never grieve the leaving eyes of youth. Truth
is lost and winterworn. Borne away on snarling winds,
the greening drop of spring falls from my hair. The cleric’s
cloak is a darkly thing. My deeper, deeper throat
receives the gloaming sermon there, heir of the berry
dreamt to burst in his hand. Damn the vestal
up-and- swung of lust that Woman loved, budblood
and the Garden singing skin and pink bouquets, but
turn the tongue beyond the Book and in the darkest
places hold the harvest fruit and look above and long
to lasting-touch the apple that is loathed so much.
Such is Sunday mass and curse of we, the curled
Madonnas kneeling with a screaming in our skirts.
The weakly bread we break and nurse. And vow and
kneel and slaughter one more godless book of verse.
After the first, my star still north and rising,
they patched his purse of blood-burst skin,
my sleeping bud and starless. I remember him:
in all that dusk and darkness, my bygone boy
would never begin with spring-eternal grin
and years. In infant rain I brought him here.
Near to the starshook brooks, to the water’s call,
to the hill worn warm by the greening flocks
and the fox which chases night from the hills.
Remember, still, how I holy held and fell
like a last-prayer priest to my knees? These
in the sleeping snow, these in the damply death-
throe glow of Madonna’s weeping eye: these
are the lives in the seeds which cry to the gaping
mouth of night. Yes. These are all mine. I
and my yesterday’s children who never came by
and stamped their sparks on the pavement bright.
Theirs was the sleep when my eye-fire died,
when horizons never would rise in their stride
and my homehope lost in the land and gone.
Through gasping fog and winter on, I do not let
the sterile beds which hold their heads begin
to bow and hunchback-bend when village boys
and friends and all the wheeling, laughing ends
of summer spring that sleeping wall. Tonight,
cruciform, I lay another quiet life I never knew at all.
The Night That Robin Died
I remember it best as burnt lips and black
that night when the mouth of the house spat
you and your terminal news out to the stars
and back. Before the last evening hours
had passed, flame yielding life to the ember,
the crack of your ash called a duskdark September
too soon to its spring. It was the summer to never
remember. Robin, that radio screamed all the night
like your ambulance light living on and tight
was my wren-clenched flesh, was the glut
in my throat for you, lost-light bird never cut
from the cage. The age that was yours was the loudest
and long, but that old August day blew its dust
far on past those bones growing epigraph-grey:
a memento that death is just one storm away.
These days, one more last-light life blown out,
the heart in my body beats that much more loud.
Oh gallow-bound you with the ballroom grin,
for each crowd at your feet another rose out in
a mutual call, a language too dark for the masses
at all. That fall from the world, as springtime passes
its breath to the last, was the black blacker blackest
that my past has carried. After that passage, dusk folded
and wearied away, I stood at the gate summer-coated
to wait, watching your far-flaming ghostlight fade.
You never doubted the fire that flared, that made
you a light living on in that night. While bone-body dies
and we look to the stars bygone-bright in your eyes,
know only your laughter lit hearthstone and home.
Know yours is the name never lost from the stone.
The Night Country
Old winter hour, gloam and the glow
of this last evening fire, after the time
of the cold and away from my last-gasp
hourglass and this passing grey; after
the far-cast dust of my day when the half-
light fields breathe dark in the dusk,
from this terminal night and the drums
of Carthage rung in those my passing bells;
out in the darkland dells where the dead
lambs bleat, from the moorside wells
where the madmen sleep and the sun
does not tear into rooms anymore;
where no morning comes, and the lungs
of the hills rise black in the smoke. Oh,
glow of the land on the night’s far-side
where the lantern-light and the lightning
spine are the time of childhood alone,
yesterday’s echo in my broken-bell
throat, and the stardrop ponds where I
rocked and rolled and used to laugh
show a burnt and black-lipped Medusa.
Remember this last: that after the snap
of my hospital heart, that after the stars
in my eyes dim dark and the nightjars long
in my absence cry, I’ll take all of the feet
of the fields in my stride. Up and out
of the night country, with all of the valley’s
white rage at my back, I’ll tear up the forest,
the fire, the fog-fallen towers and flute-stem
flowers which rise through the cracks of these
churchyard bones. This home slows to black,
and I won’t look back.
These penitent nights, chapel-black
where the terrace turns its back to the hills,
after the wild white fists and the fight,
the blood-bite- kiss and the mist of the morning
over the dock, in the glowering grey
like a sentinel fox I slip in the dawn on
and beyond the wharfside-wetland- headland
away. Behind, my wound-tight sweat-damp
night and a lover whose name I never quite
know. Oh dockland dim and fog on the moor,
the wind at the water-bridge stops
at my corner-whore feet as I turn from that
frostshard street and home, a lone
lamp dim in the last laugh of night.
My Tyne-light mirrors me Madonna gone shy:
I who split spines of hills with my stride,
the mariner’s wife who watched from the shore
that ship ten years too lost. Now, the frost
of my widowhood workhouse-dark, my skull
holding eyes like cradles carved
with a terminal hand, and then when
the river moves the moon through the land
and I hold something crèche in my canyon
again, to rinse off the men from my skin
I remember. Before the bairns get in, I am
a heavy, bleeding gender. Your medal tender
glows on from the hearth, man of my heart,
seaman my own. Know only this: though
the field sheds its coat to the wind your infants
are clothed in the sweet sweet spring of youth,
a matriarch lighthouse guiding them home.
Laura Potts is twenty one years old and lives in West Yorkshire, England. She has twice been named a London Foyle Young Poet of the Year and Young Writer. In 2013 she became an Arts Council Northern Voices poet and Lieder Poet at the University of Leeds.
Her poems have appeared in Seamus Heaney’s Agenda, Poetry Salzburg Review and The Interpreter’s House.
Having studied at The University of Cape Town and worked at The Dylan Thomas Birthplace in Swansea, Laura has recently become Agenda’s Young TS Eliot Poet and been shortlisted for a Charter-Oak Award for Best Historical Fiction in Colorado.
This year Laura was shortlisted in The Oxford Brookes International Poetry Prize, was named one of The Poetry Business’ New Poets, and became a BBC New Voice for 2017. Her first BBC radio drama Sweet The Mourning Dew will air at Christmas 2017.
You can follow Laura on Twitter @thelauratheory_.