At his heels all the bigger rooms –
day, night, air – have closed their doors
as blindfold he enters the attic of the water.

Like particles of sleep mud raises itself
to his mask, and with his mind’s eye
he fingers the darkness for signs of her.

This is the underworld of the deliberately lost,
the unforeseen consequence, MOT failure or weapon,
the barges for whom the river has all got too much.

Draped in silt, the debris delivers itself
to his fingertips, soft as the edges of thought,
as a handbrake left off, as the key to a previous door.

Far off he hears the approaching engine
of her name, a deep chest knocking. In his hand
the blue flame flowers and he begins to cut.

Slowly he surfaces and in the empty air
of the house the river runs off his face like a song.

first published in Tideway (Two Rivers Press, 2002) from The Night Tree (Carcanet, 2004), © Jane Draycott 2002, used by permission of the author and the publisher.

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