You close your eyes and there they are:
dark eyed, brimming with language.
They press with languid babes-in-arms
against the railings you’ve erected
with your handfuls of nails and your
nightmarish effort. You sweat and weep
against their will to be remembered.
They fill the dirty sea of your brain
with their boats, cry out at the edge
of your imaginings, making you angry.
The island is your state of grace.
With your child and your husband
you live inside a square of time
that you painstakingly unrolled,
mended, embroidered and defined.
You can’t survive without this space.
You spend your days pacing its borders.
Now they are smuggling themselves in.
You wake to screaming and banging.
Each star is a tiny searchlight,
and you know the time has come.
You bring your husband and your child
down to the sea that whispers home.
It’s a matter of win or be won.
It’s breath or suffocation.


Polly Clark’s pamphlet A Handbook for the Afterlife is published by Templar in November 2015. Her next full collection is due from Bloodaxe in 2017. Polly lives in Helensburgh, Scotland, where she is writing a novel, Larchfield, based on W.H. Auden’s little known but formative years in the town. She is also Literature Programme Producer for Cove Park, Scotland’s International Artist Residency Centre.


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