“In Rivers” and other poems by Alison McCrossan


Here you cast your dazzling eye through clouds
ruptured on surging waters, where in winds
on a mission across skies born
of voids words were loaded:

let me out;

crowns of heaving leaves spilled trees,
turned them upside down, a splay of
tangled guts, and spat out the despair
of the years in a season:

let me out;

until the decay of the black spell
set in, the mulch of slow rot, a creep
of violets unfolded:

oh, take me away

where hushed trees mangled in that storm
descend to the bend on the old-winding road
and fields and dusk woods and torn mills and canals
and Lee waters take on every mood and ripple it back.


Father and Earth

Just like everyone else in this city
where grey lines blur sky
to pavement, you’re an extension
of the rain;
the incessant drizzle on these streets seeps
through clothes, misting words of weather and when,
colour coded alerts, storms between showers.

I’d listened as wind gusted every odd night,
worrying for a future I might never see,
where nobody wants their children to be,
and reasoned water never ceases to be water.

You’d become old;
the cough caught you.

I think the sun was setting with no great glow;
patter of rain every odd hour, grey skies
shortening the day.

Your steps faltered, your pulse soared;
rough nights in A&E and finally
the quarantine ward.

You gave the staff the brunt of your tongue,
There’s nothing wrong with me;
I’ll sign myself out.

You didn’t, though you would have.
Tough as mountains, old rock.
Stubborn as the wind that roars.

Old mountains in clouds, mist of rain,
Earth, floods of pain,

will you name yourself out?



Don’t you know that deodorant is toxic
she says, fanning the air with her fingers.
Puts a song in my head.
I turn to the messages on my phone.
My doctor.
Cholesterol is high.
Advise a healthy diet and regular exercise.
Are you listening? she says. Throw it in the rubbish.
It’ll explode in the dustbin truck.
Who cares about the bin-men? she says.
What about the bin-women?
Well, I haven’t seen any of them, she says.
Hell, I’m trying to read.
What? Letters from the dead?
There’s no chlorofluorocarbons in them anymore.
I’m not concerned with holes in the ozone, she retorts.


The wind was high, she says.
All through the dark hours I listened to its protests unaware
she was awake beside me.
It happens nearly every night, she says, between storms.

It’s a top down issue, I insist, and besides, we notice the elements now.

Our granddaughter lets out a wail from the other room.

Rings out like an alarm.


Slip into The Sea

Curl under the bridge to sleep awhile,
bullet-force rain dancing in gutters;
pretend you’re the river, the last mile.

Feel tugs of water in your lungs, a vial
prescribed to draw down the shutters;
curl under the bridge to sleep a while.

In twilight, between poison and bliss beguile,
this rain’s furious prance softens to mutters;
pretend you’re in the river, the last mile.

You’re coming to the end of this trial –
I’ll give you the sea, the warm water utters;
stay under the bridge to sleep a while.

If you let the sea take you, saltwater will file
scabs from your soul and offer to suture;
pretend you’re in the river, the last mile.

And if you listen to the waves’ murmuring
sail, essence of this transcendent suitor,
you’ll break from the bridge to swim a while
and find you are beyond the river, the last mile.


In rivers

 I see you in rivers,
       the swallowing holes and murky beds. 
 In the water,
    dirt blots my eye; I hold my breath,
    fly rings dot the surface; a broken bottle’s on the floor.
    There’ll be no poppy red, ghastly watercolour spread.
    I don’t tread and I don’t flounder for the above,
    but sink right in until my breath is algae green.
 There’s a moment; in the twilight,
    I’m fearful, not knowing what’s to come.
    The depth of an empty canvas greets me.
    And my dead mother, my brother, you,
    whisper at the watery fence.
    A ghost life-film runs in my mind.
    That’s a fly swatted out.
I struggle with the layers; I hurl against the skin.
There’s nothing I ever gave to sway me from this picture.
What have I ever done of note? Do I want something of note?
Aspiration is for the living; I’m knifing this to death.
 There’s the slow river snake,
            	you whisper, whispering
        patchwork reflections on the pool of the water.
Once this was enough; rise and disturb.
Fish playing rings for flies.

© Alison McCrossan

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