How You Arrived and Other Poems with Elizabeth Gibson
How you arrived
You came into my life at the right time – for you, I mean, for you
to stick like snow. You slipped in through the cat flap without me
knowing. I watched you, I listened to you – among others, never
alone. I was afraid to seek out your lone star; surely approaching
the fox wasn’t wise. I admired through screen and speakers. My
hand, bleeding and scarred from mosquitoes that would never go
away, no matter how far from her I ran, began to gather ink, the
deepest blue. I was in no hurry to bleach out the stains, but wore
them as talismans between my nightly sessions drawing you. I
learnt the curve of your chin and jaw, the exact spot where your
hair parts, like that holy sea, learnt the shape of your ears. Your
eyes I never had to learn. They came out perfectly the first time.
And in one of the chambers of my heart, a dark, brave one, the
echo quietly began, and continued, its beat keeping me steady.
You, you, you. Your name. Two syllables. I let myself love you.
Not in any physical way – and yet, in perhaps the most intimate
way imaginable. You are my pointer, my milky night. You are
ancient and revolutionary, cocky and wise. Your voice touches
me in ways and places no lover could. I hold you to my chest, I
feed you from my lungs and I live off your song in the way we
humans can starve for weeks and survive drinking fire and sky
and hope. And sometimes I see in you a bit of her, a bit of the
woman who broke me, she of the mosquitoes and the pale blue
eyes. Yours are brown and I draw them navy, almost black. She
was like coal and you are, too, but you are on fire. You got here.
I know that night will be my comfort,
a totem for each early morn.
I know the bay was sweet and silver,
I know the air was thick and warm.
A dome of milky constellations
sang to celebrate your birth.
The sky burnt red and green and yellow
when you stepped back off the earth.
Tiny silver fishes swimming around your
neck, the one really feminine thing about
you, above denim, lots, denim on denim
on denim. Triple denim. That’s not cool.
Shame on you. Curls like chocolate, that
you hate and the old ladies love because no
one has corkscrews anymore, they rush to
straighten them out when they are ten and
eventually they stop coming back. You are
different, they say. You are an old beauty,
like something from the fifties. Your skin
is white and unblemished, real porcelain –
if only they saw the faint universe of cloud
freckles that dance around your ears when
your glasses are off. Your eyes are so dark,
they say, are they black? We didn’t know
people really had black irises. No, they are
brown, they are dark brown, how can you
not see it? Have you not looked into them,
ever? It only takes a minute to see they are
brown. You are not very observant, clearly.
Elizabeth Gibson was announced as a New North Poet at the 2017 Northern Writers’ Awards. Her work has appeared in The Compass, Antiphon, Cake, Far Off Places, The Poetry Shed and Ink, Sweat & Tears. She edits Foxglove Journal and the Word Life section of Now Then Manchester. She tweets at @Grizonne and blogs here.