From ‘Salt’

He cleared snow from the path and laid down salt.
He was conscious of oxygen, then: the word, also the way
his breath came back at him as mist to leave a trace
of ice on his upper lip. This shortly after dawn,
the sleepers in the house fixed like the dead, except the one
who turned in her dream looking for elbow-room, her voice
just short of reaching him, the snowfall soundless white, the salt
finding its way, the scuff of his boots in all that ghostliness.

A thickness in every breath.
The streets are white under hard sunlight.
‘Where my shadow falls just short of me…’

Low skies bringing rain in off the sea, the deep odour
of wet tarmac. How often have you been here before:
those two on the boardwalk going in step, an old man
waiting to cross, the girl muffled in blue,
hand raised to flag a taxi… actors edging the real.

The agéd primagravida does the splits. Forceps are brought.
Her world of pain is such that she stands aside
to watch as the child is born to a season of rain and wind.
Selfhood is everything. Like mother, like son.

In that tiny diorama, she waits at the open door.
She is perfect: nails and lips and hair. The windows
carry reflections of hills, and a river that seems to flow.
She has never been to such a place.
How can there live such loneliness in her?

‘Without salt flesh gathers worms; and though flesh be our foe
we are commanded to sustain it. And we must afflict it.
Habete, inquit, sal in vobis.’ Offer me salt in every sacrifice.

From Poetry London. Reproduced with kind permission from Poetry London.