A spiny chick, slate grey in white ash
struggles from the fireplace to your cupped hands.
The chimney rustles with another nest.
We both know I should have netted the pot –
your sigh says I’ve been mollycoddled,
I’m soft, washed out, washed up.
You wrap the chick in a cloth.
I bring a pinch of cat food from the fridge.
By autumn I’ll forget to knock out the nest.
Then you’ll stamp from the smoke filled room
point at the chimney and curse me.
This year’s jackdaw will have joined
the others swirling up on your rising heat
then dropping at your feet to be fed.
You will curse every chick you’ve turned
into tatty, stinking, useless birds.
These mushrooms will give you
a never-again hangover, missed
heart beats and suspicious lumps
under your arms. But these
feed you when you’re fearful
of another meatless, beanless meal,
when your hair starts to blow
away in the winter wind.
So we search where the last
bark chips have spilled across
muddy grass, we peep up
from the carpark’s edge then
run to the spinney of thin
birch trees. It’s here that
you’ll find the givers and takers
both opening their sticky caps,
wrinkled stinkers pushing up
from buried beams, burnt boards.
We Laugh Without You
I’m up and down the wooded slope
bundling sticks, dragging logs
piling them against the freezing house.
Black pebbles slip from the flooded bank
grit pours from the tree root steps
the muddy path slips past parsnips, beets.
It’s a time you would have called the salad days.
Not prepacked, washed but scorching cress
alive with bugs in soggy bread.
You might have dug us free from this mud
stopped theorizing about what we’d lost
worked harder, faster than the food we ate
given us time to sit for an hour and let
our wrinkled skin dry out. Or you might
have sat by the fire and eaten up
every spare mouthful, kept us working
into the soggy night. All I know is
that without you we often fall silent,
every slice of the spade goes slower,
we’re not sure what is planted when,
when we laugh we laugh without you.