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01/02/2013

FORECASTS

Laura Elliott

Forecasts was written as a collaborative piece. Angus Sinclair, who also completed the Poetry MA, has written a corresponding poem. View his work.

Forecasts

‘We live submerged at the bottom of an
ocean of air’

            Eva
ngelista
Torricelli

i.

 

I am beginning to

realise that you are

the kind of sentence

that doesn’t go anywhere

fast. I have been

tracking the weather forecasts

 

in France – your mute

winds spook me, enough

to annotate my days

away from silence, deaf-

dumb-blindness of being

left alone with no-one

 

to narrate the cloudburst,

or the way the

wheat fields in the               

morning smell like burning

popcorn. Last night I

read a story aloud

 

just to hear words

spoken in our house.

It was about a

little girl who wished

she owned a cat.

One afternoon a tiger

 

landed in her garden

in a wooden crate

destined for the zoo,

and the little girl wanted

a cat so much

she simply believed the

 

tiger was a cat.

Poor tiger, house-trained,

learning how to purr

for her, he tried

so hard to be

a cat – ignoring trees

 

and dogs and making

such an effort not

to eat her until

the end. It made

me think of how

much you want to

 

believe in taming airstreams,

translating storms into a

chorus we can score 

in our own voices. 

But don’t we always

misread something? Afterwards

 

I woke myself laughing

into the empty room,

my voice so loose

I was certain it

must have been you –

not so far away

 

across the sea, not

chasing hurricanes just to

hear if they speak.

 

 

vi.

 

Last night the sky turned white

as a soft-boiled egg, and lightning

marbled the milk skin

red. I saw your eyes, bloodshot

 

from driving nights round city outskirts,

where the bloodhounds bay over fences

at the slightest interruption,

and inside your cab there is

 

a constant intermission; agony of stale

air, saliva gumming up from the

cluttered, plastic disposable-cups,

furnishings breathing toxins through your closed

 

compartment heart. These small storms hit

us hard, but I found that

a whole summer’s rainfall

in an hour can be exhilarating.

 

I stood in the doorway staring

up until the tungsten clouds broke,

listening to next-door wailing

carly carly where are you carly

 

come home carly over and over

again beneath the sound of freight-trucks

ploughing miles through the

sky, and I thought I heard

 

your voice counting down the cats-eyes’

on the motorway. Here the storm

wind booms, gathers its

reverberations back into the cavity of

 

its own iron moan. The streets

are flooded, full-throttle thunder drenched

the roses you never

even saw bloom, they fattened and

 

dwarfed in an instant, the way

swollen skies are so suddenly spent,

emptied hissing over doorsteps.

Meanwhile red eyes, channel your paths

 

through thunder, crack the window, catch

the quick winds in your palm,

fingers streaming through slant

gasps on the other side of

 

glass. I can only try and fill

this house with sounds you missed,

a box of storms,

sheet-metal compressed and furious.

 

 

viii.

 

The house is beginning

again to dust

and I am allowing

the bruised fruit to

soften. All we can hope

for since the storm

is something more to stir

us. I give you

hints; a jackdaw clack, 

photographs we

ought to remember for

each other; blue

balloon in a grey-green

river, the girl

who. I know you told me

not to but I

went swimming in the lake

last night. It was

a struggle, as

soon as I got far enough

I wanted to

turn back, but it was a

song I had to

finish, there were little

fish and raindrops

flinched against the surface

like scattered

rice. I wanted to be

so completely

wet I couldn’t hear. I

held my breath and 

counted my lungs in my

fists; blood rustled

like static, a needle

snagged on a scratch,

the way we catch our breath

on hairline splits

between us and return

always to memories –

I remember

I wanted you to jump

from the rock face,

watched you watching the local

boys who knew

instinctively where to

climb, where to aim

for in the water – I

held my breath for

you then, watching sunlight

creep up carving

edges onto everything,

clarity given

back in a flock of leaves

appearing here

here again, interspersed

with breathlessness.

And later, our cool white

room whose windows

opened out onto the

red-tiled terrace

where the other guests smoked

and drank home-made

brandy out of foot-less

glasses, we held

our silence in our throats

behind the thin

cotton curtains, sweating

in the storm of

each other.

 

 

ix.

 

The sprig you stole

from the plantation garden has produced

leathery flowers that reek of jasmine,

but are not that.

 

The bush is breaking

apart the patio, the purpled florets

hook newly-hatched spiders in their flight

out of the garden.

 

How easily they lift

into the wind and clot their

own nests in the forest, how

easily wind can take

 

into itself something so

delicate and pass it on, until

completely stitched into the fabric of

our distances. How light

 

the air is tonight.

I dip my body in itself,

hoping something tender reaches through the

wind spinning nets across

 

the fields, touches you

composing loops and curves between us,

breathing in the air, the scent

of jasmine, misremembered skin.

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