brittled with age, to grasp what’s come to light,
you chafe the jaded Swan Vesta across
its worn sandpaper-page – in that dank
yellow box the crumbly duds outweigh
the live. We hunch around you in mumbling
suspense, like Neanderthals at their first glimpse
of fire. At last, a cursive scribble detonates
with a sound like Velcro unseaming.
We recoil a touch, as you stoop, and communicate
the momentary, palm-cupped flame to a candle:
a glow-worm sacrificed to a glow-animal.
That abrupt blackout – moments before,
as though the whole house fell unconscious -
had you rooting through cupboards, rifling drawers
like an intruder to unearth these instruments
of sight, locating the children through a sonar
of name-calls and blindman’s-buff gropings.
Soon enough, the living-room’s ushered back
as a woozy apparition coaxed from tea-lights,
eery for a moment as a séance
or Hall of Rest. But someone’s prised out
a November sparkler or two, crackling-bright
and acrid: they arc-weld the candle-haloes together
and sear a blurred initial on your retina.
Bereaved of TV, we soon lope to bed, probing
with torch-beam the wraith-mobbed corridor
of the stairs. I colonise the freezing sheets
inch by inch, resisting awhile the liminal dreams
that muster in the frostscapes on our window,
afraid to miss the sleep-balm of your last Goodnight;
then burrowing deeper, mining for warm,
I replay my body’s initial unclenching
in the vivid, tactile blackness of your womb.
First published in Human Form, March 2013