The First Day of Christmas
‘Let his path be covered all in red, so Justice
can lead him back into his home’
Welcome home, husband.
At last. Observe,
I spread this,
a red carpet
at your feet.
Greet your pretty children.
Walk with me and watch me work.
Our ancient oven hisses dark fumes
as the Christmas goose spits in its pan,
a pudding steams in the heat of my breath
and I am sweating kerosene into the gravy.
The presents you pile high as mountains,
these are not apologies or offerings
or even hunting trophies, but
funeral pyres. I dream of midnight arson,
wrapping paper kindling,
multiple explosions of triple-a batteries
as glass-blue eyeballs combust
and helpless, disfigured heads
roll towards my waiting lap.
I’ll colour a colley bird black as my heart,
black as your heart, blacker than love,
and give it to you, and its blue-black coat
will hold you in its feather mirror and prove
that light is in the dark, that pigment augments
the auguries of light by being their opposite:
that dark is bright. In the bleak desert
it’s the blackbird will see you home, not the dove.
The dove would come to pieces at the first dart
of unrefracted light, his pearly breast
no match for the shaft of truth on the native hearth.
I say native – all of us live there who must move
our hearts to find a place for them to stay
when staying still is never still enough, when still
makes of the heart a target. The blackbird
will lead you forward under camouflage,
under cover of night, lit by the flares of starlight,
along the path of Kings who, by a faith
even than coal more impenetrably dark –
by which I mean ‘more richly pigment-stuffed’,
seamed with being, alive with particles,
each particle housing a mystery; not just ‘more light-deprived’ –
who, as I say, found themselves by faith at the start
of everything. On the other side of the desert you will come –
holding this black, sleek, mirror-shining, solid
being, whose heartbeats will splinter off in your hand
and fall on the sand, so fast, so small, so hard,
the enchanted flower, the elixir, the fountain, the infant –
at last to the reflection of your own beating heart.
That will be, if I can give it to you, my gift.
*Jacqueline Saphra’s poetry has been widely published and her plays performed on stage and television. She has won several awards including first prize in the Ledbury Poetry Competition. Her pamphlet, Rock’n’Roll Mamma (Flarestack) will be followed this year by her first collection The Kitchen of Lovely Contraptions (flipped eye – supported by The Arts Council of England.)
Evans-Bush is the author of Me and the Dead (Salt) and Oscar &
Henry (Rack Press). She edits the online literary magazine Horizon
Review, blogs at Baroque in Hackney, and tutors independently and for
the Poetry School. Egg Printing Explained is due from Salt in spring