The news, buttered toast, clear light
breathed in from the morning,
washing the kitchen pale and bright.
The news was boiling,
Californian hills were lesions of flame,
red wounds in the night and spreading.
Beautiful country there, a shame.
I forgot it as soon as we stepped out,
clutching the baby we have yet to name.
First time she heard the church’s crow, devout;
first time she’s seen her breath: here, gone;
first time to watch frost glimmer like a doubt.
We crunched to the old mill pond –
I am here aged five, skates laced,
desperate to join them, tugging them on.
I hold her bundled body, hide her face,
in the crook of my neck to keep her from the cold
and shock – where once ice traced
a filigree, then plate, and then grew old,
held birds then kids then parents, winter-long,
is only the pond, scummed over with pond scum.
I think of ice fairs on the Thames, bold song
from carollers in tents of red and gold,
on ice that went one year and then was gone.
I cannot bring myself to turn her head.
I don’t know why this scares me so.
On our way back the silent trees play dead.
Rachel Lewis is a London-based poet. Her first poetry pamphlet, ‘Three Degrees of Separation’, is being published by Wordsmith HQ and explores themes around family, friendship, mental health and recovery.
There will be a launch event for her pamphlet at 7pm on 23rd March at the Poetry Cafe, Covent Garden, London. In addition to readings and a chance to buy the book, there will be two fantastic guest performances from Phoebe Power, winner of the 2018 Forward Prize for best first collection, and Eloise Stevens, writer and audio producer.