No. 7


Fiona Sampson 


         Grace is the law of the descending movement. 

                                                ó Simone Weil

A cry bursts like a wing-beat.   
Among clicks and whirrs of language
your voice comes and goes, 
scraps mailed from a hospital bed.

Is this our 
Itís called a journey
but youíre not looking for something,
you donít want to arrive 
         in the cubicle dark 
          at the end 
beyond the night-lit corridor.

At dusk, mist rises from the river:

the green ball
in the drip-feed
lets only a little   

Letís go to the very edge, 
to the darkness 
where the windows are floating their little boats.

Your illness
is a kind of pact;
to bear it
is to bear even death
in this name ó love.

Past midnight, I lean against the wall  
to let a trolley pass:

itís always the same face on display,
twin cheekbones 
raising the skin like tent poles,
your nostrils 
with the promise of air.

This is the river we dream about 
                                                          and dread.

Once, we saw an eel
caught by a heron,
the bird drinking it down
as if it were a
          black river.

Listen ó 

rippling polished lino, here it comes,  
the wounding sound 

in the corridorís throat ó 
itís your shout 

bursting the darkness open.

A giant listening    
lies in my chest,
with the sound of your voice. 

Iím walking the corridor
as if there were something to count;
as if tiles spelt clues
       or numbers.
They slide away
                     behind me. 

Even as I tighten my hold 
youíre disappearing; 
you telescope
into your own black centre.
Is this it?
   All the love-feast
this salty

The loneliness of your naked body
in front of the doctors and their equipment
uncovers me.        

I feel the riverís long cold on my skin

as you become unknown 
even to yourself,
going on ticking and beating into the unknown

where you fight or yield; 
as oxygen detonates your lungs,
                                                          the catheter
milks your bladder ó 
or drown.  

Is anything beautiful
left in the world?

Youíve placed fear on my finger.
A ringed river-bird.

The riverís an underground music ó  

Draw the curtain.
Beds fill, 
empty and fill
through the blank of recovery. 

Is there any music 
to justify this?

Take me back to the midsummer river
hidden under brush,
the sly trickle of meaning.

                                                Your fear 
and mine:
a verse with no answer.
Knee, hip, shoulder:
in the windowís mirror
at the body 
floating up 
to the surface of the night.




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with the authors.


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