Two poems by John McCullough

Two poems from Spacecraft, Penned in the Margins, May 2016
I’ve Carried a Door On My Back for Ten Years

You lugged it from the builder’s yard.
Now it’s my turn to know its stiff weight,
the slow chafe of pine against vertebrae:
a decade-long kiss, flush with splinters.

I closed it when I left. The lock snicked.
Then I noticed it hitching a ride. It never
gives up―patchy blue, invisible straps;
a faint knocking though nobody’s there.

So many slab hazards: repeated thumps
to my skull, brass hinges clouting strangers
as we creep into lifts, beds. I lie awake
on its panels, framing rectangular thoughts,

obsessed by the side I can’t see; what grows
there. The problem is you died so there’s no way
to set the thing down, no wall to prop it against
with its stuck handle and fracturing paint.

All day we continue our back to front tango,
this dance where I almost but never arrive,
where I’m shut off to visitors for hours
then, with one touch, swing wildly open.

A fine pleasure, to live beside the uncertainties
of a basement garden, to sit curled
near the hydrangea’s unfolding, a pipistrelle’s
click-click-click. Earlier I ran inside
and watched a squall assault the ground,
drops pummelling the glass of tea I left
on chipped slate. They made liquid coronets
in the air above it, the dark drink rising quickly,
spilling over―soon running wholly clear.

It never seemed like it could be this way.
I moved to the basement with my spears
of grey hair and thought I’d fallen.
I was unnerved by my own low breath.
At the window, I stared up at majestic legs―
airy, untamed creatures. I dreamt one night
they weren’t attached to people, had strolled
round independently for years and I’d not
noticed, having only half the view.

Then, from emptiness, a drawing
of a palace flapped and descended.
I found scattered coins, met in secret
the fanatical eyes of terriers. Now I gaze
at hanging baskets, spinning gently.
I sit here on summer evenings with a glass
of silence, car-shadows floating
in their theatre on the wall above me
while my tender roots thicken, grow sweet.
John McCullough‘s first collection of poems The Frost Fairs won the Polari First Book Prize in 2012. It was a Book of the Year for The Independent and The Poetry School, and a summer read for The Observer. He teaches creative writing at New Writing South and the Open University. His new collection Spacecraft will be published by Penned in the Margins in May 2016 and is available to pre-order.