It opened with a gasp,
as if it had been holding its breath.
Hot to the touch, it was
a silver keepsake; a swollen tear
my grandfather kept close to his chest
in the Western Desert.
The clasp undone, I felt a blast
of heat, grit in my eye,
then all the sand of Africa
in the palm of my hand.
It burst like grain from a store,
filling the room, choking drawers.
Before long, I was floundering
on a glittering dune.
Grasping for the window, I was
swept out on a tide of sand.
The sky darkened; the sun
became a bruised plum.
Lizards spilled out, gazelles,
a horned-Oryx, and, as my street
sank beneath a golden fleece,
I found a portrait of my grandmother,
no larger than a fingernail, wearing
the face of a woman set free.
Christopher James was born in Paisley, Scotland in 1975. Educated at Newcastle and UEA, he’s a winner of the National Poetry Competition, the Bridport, Ledbury, Crabbe and Oxford Brooks prizes. His collections include Farewell to the Earth (Arc 2011) and The Penguin Diaries (Templar 2017). He also writes plays and prose, including three pastiche Sherlock Holmes novels.