Kay Syrad and Amy Souza

Amy Souza
Digitally enhanced image of painted cloth
Inspiration piece

In Your Presence
By Kay Syrad
Response

The day you arrived
I heard a man say he could turn time into space
with twelve bottles of Turkish cologne
an ivory shaving brush, and evidence of waiting

later, we ran from the steep red rooms
towards a ribbon shop in Marylebone
murmured our disappointment
over tea and Florentines in a dark café

The day after you arrived
a lean man, a sinewy man, typed my symptoms
into his computer, it took an hour
he could make no promises

but he opened the window a fraction
recommended an app for staying alive
explained the word ‘depersonalisation’
and let me charge my phone

Two days after you arrived
our friends came by, radiantly
and we flew over labyrinths
burst in and out of laughter

until darling served a luscious dish
that rose and rose in the charming heat
and their simple faces longed and lapped
at the sweetness

Three days after you arrived
I stood upright for a man who said ‘do not deny
the violence, do not interrupt
the intelligence, yours or theirs

do not be angry or sad or shy’
he said, ‘only dress in this blue cotton
wrap yourself in flowering flax
and cry out for the reasoning of kindness’

Four days after you arrived
they brought platters of salmon and rye
the buds of pink camellias, cases
and boxes full with their lives

and from below they coaxed into light
a journey and a field, knowledge of water
and how a mother and daughter and father
can know each other and speak

Five days after you arrived
ten wrote rhyming lines for ladies’ Leap Year
brave or unrequited, hopeful, hopeless
Gwen only wanted understanding

and a girl sailed from small Ireland
to Brooklyn that very evening
her eyes high and fresh
and full of ardour or sacrifice

Six days after you arrived
we were seeking answers, what I am,
you are, neither body nor mind, not two
but one: ‘I am itself is God’

and I will not whisper ‘consciousness’
but drop it from the lexicon
say uh-uh in its place
drift and dream and gulp freely

Seven days after you arrived
five women saved the planet with words up-blossoming
backs against the night glass
London trembling with spark-silver

sparkling recklessly
while we gave our earnestness to the room
blind in the killing spotlight
yet bringing forth, holding, sighing

Eight days after you arrived
my wing was torn out
you had to lift me from the sacred bed
lay me down in beech leaves wet with rain

one pain at a time
is all that can be recognised
let relief be imagined quietly
in the dark of afternoon

Nine days after you arrived
I showed you to the sun-draped bench
we rested there together
I studied slivers of scarlet red on you

saw all at once in depth and surface
your flying heart, your echo heart
the risks you’d taken, the lonely postmarks
all that you had wrought and given

 

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