Your Body

Your body is a photograph of
migrants who arrived by boat,
each eye a cabin with a taut
iron bed and silver gromits
looking out to sea.

I am the passenger with a
wide-brimmed hat, perhaps a butcher
from Manchester, or a teacher from Perth,
unmarried, in love with the poets
who write of the British sky’s temper,
how it shifts from foot to foot,
snow has taken root here, bloomed.

The tattoos on your back
are the mermaid at the helm.
These white sheets the sheets
of gold and white sun
at the surface of the sea.
And the fringe of green
along it, the far away mountain
haloed by the mist that comes in
as the island inhales it.
It inches further every breath,
a kind of steady, stagnant rain.

A passenger runs their hand
along the rail. On shore,
the whole town has come to wave goodbye,
to see the young ship set sail.

Then they return to a small house
with a neat, clean veranda
that this poem cannot pass.

From Surge. Reproduced with kind permission of Chatto & Windus.

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