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scooping a half-circle

out of nothing



I often spin around with you and hear
the fragile music of a carousel;
I feel your black arms round me in a heavy sweep
of closeness, taking me up on notes which fall
like eggs through water.

I am older now
and you have fallen from the garish horse
a long time since, and I am holding on
with thin brown fingers. Do you know
it’s been a quarter century since you
(with your voice like the man who plays God in the movies)
kissed me? I don’t remember your kisses.
I remember you wearing striped pyjamas
and waving to me from the ward - your great hand
scooping a half-circle out of nothing;
how my brother almost choked on a Lifesaver
until a male nurse turned him upside down
and out came the white mint with the hole
that saved him.

I dreamed you died, and when I woke
my mother was by the bed. ‘How will I light
the fire?’ she said. I didn’t know.

It was cold in our house; our breath came out
round as balloons and dissolved till we breathed
again. We learned to accommodate spaces
as you must have learned to accommodate…
but no. Where there is no place to put things,
no place for your bones or your slippers or my words
there cannot be a place for spaces.
It must be fine to know only lack of substance -
the round emptiness in an angel’s trumpet -
and still hear music.

I have the things you made
and she has made us see you in them.
I have the ivory statues and the pictures
telling stories of African ancestors,
a birth, flights into Egypt. In your work
I find the stillness of your eyes and mouth
the stillness which is always at the centre
of the spinning ball we hurl high and long.

I often spin around with you and hear
the fragile music of a carousel.
My horse would gallop forward if I let him
but I prefer the swinging back to where
we were, slow undulations round and back
to identical place. I prefer to see
your black hands with mine on a crimson mane
which will never be swept back by the wind.

-- Lucinda Roy