The Lean Years

The London Magazine - - CONTENTS - Sharon Black

I was a burnt stick, and a hand­ful of paraf­fin: an empty house, the yard at the back; a win­now­ing shed.

I re­mem­ber the de­li­cious­ness of No, my whit­tled body, flesh an out­sider, the cult of bird-bones.

I gath­ered shells and stones. The aching in my belly be­came a song I’d known for­ever and I sang it loudly to my­self.

It was the world seen through church glass. I was blood­less and smooth, an al­abaster, use­less clock.

I gulped air as if it were a reser­voir. My pock­ets were full of fish and they sparkled: you could see them through my clothes.

I re­mem­ber blank days, black­outs. Days I for­got names, for­got what names were for. The rev­e­la­tion of a sweet clean drop.

Then a small bright pill – Gone, the chest of snakes. Gone, the rest­less doors, the plas­tic an­chor.

A friend speaks of her vi­o­lent ex, the re­lief of her new man, gen­tle as a dog but some­times she misses that elec­tri­fy­ing yoyo.

I left my shadow in Si­cily, draped across a chair. I was eat­ing sword­fish and the last words of an ar­gu­ment with my daugh­ter.

My shadow didn’t flinch as I stood and turned and left it there. Some­times I night-walk un­der street­lamps to re­mem­ber its feet hob­nailed to mine

and I won­der if some­one else is wear­ing it or if it’s folded in a cup­board, or gath­er­ing dust, be­yond the orange or­chards, the high Si­cil­ian sun.

Win­ner of the Po­etry Prize 2018

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