Two poems from Love and Stones by Josephine Corcoran, published by Live Canon in May 2023
In Lockdown, Solitude Becomes a Flying Lover
(after a postcard of ‘Over the Town’ by Marc Chagall)
Children leave for their student lives,
husband catches an early train. In bed,
I hear the front door snap, steam rising
from an affectionate cup of tea, and you
move in, the one who loves me most.
I sleep as sunlight kisses walls, silent
luggage trundling by, your gentle tread.
And so, it goes. Long afternoons. Bread
gingerly becoming toast. Ink
flowering on my fingers as I write.
You choose empty rooms, listening
to the drifting talk of pipes. Above a fireplace,
the postcard leans. Each house receives
its morning dust and lovers stream
through weightless time. Then, a letter
from the Prime Minister, his daily briefings.
Here are the children returning to a childhood
they no longer want. Here comes my husband.
Laptops and wires. Each room bristling
with its weather. Snow of electronic noise.
as a swollen door. On the floor,
strange springtime of belongings.
The postcard slips
behind a long-forgotten clock.
I cannot stop myself
lifting from the ground. You join me
like an answered call, turn your head –
I reach beyond the town.
We hold each other. To look down
would be to fall.
sunflowers exist, sunflowers exist
after Inger Christensen translated by Susanna Nied
sunflowers exist, sunflowers exist;
in summer, sunflowers exist
for the first time in my garden;
last spring, neighbours gave me seedlings & seeds,
said my garden would sing with sweetpeas, strawberries,
sunflowers & birdsong; birdsong exists, songbirds exist
singing, singing; from overhanging trees
squirrels break in to steal sunflowers;
there’s stealing & crime scenes while songbirds are singing
& strawberries are falling & sweetpeas are spiralling;
crime scenes exist while sunflowers are shining;
streets of sameness exist, the ground dusty with sickness;
stones exist where there used to be gardens; stony
patches, sterile as crime scenes, where there used to be
spiders & slugs in the gardens & shade from trees filled
with songbirds, like nightingale, blackbird, woodlark, mistle
thrush, skylark, song thrush, robin, also sparrow & starling
now nestless; how can I feel smug holding my sunflowers
when starlings are nestless; but sweet-scented meadows exist;
I have grown my grass long, counted poppies,
buttercups, dandelions, daisies, forget-me-nots, celandines,
clover; but sulphur dioxide exists; hydrocarbons, nitrogen
oxides, the burning of fossil fuels, the smelting of minerals
but my sunflowers exist shining light in my garden, though
sickness is hovering where there used to be hoverflies,
dragonflies, bees, wasps, bats & moths, where there used
to be caterpillars, beetles, spiders & ants & fat starlings
now nestless; but sweetpeas are spiralling, strawberries are
falling but satellites in orbit carrying laser weapons exist;
shooting stars and shooting both exist & soldiers exist
at scenes of a crime, scenes of a war crime, soldiers
who kissed their lovers, last summer in fields of sunflowers;
sunflowers, their sequence, their pattern, now ruptured
in seasons, disrupted; springtime, disrupted, broken
promises of birdsong, like kisses, now soldiers with guns;
six million shares of a film on a smartphone, the old woman
saying “put these seeds in your pockets so that sunflowers
will grow; when you all lie down here, sunflowers will grow”;
soldiers holding the thought of a sunflower.