retreat, unsettles its own certainties with a shrug. Unconflicted, unashamedly erotic, sand is the pelt of an electric ghost, always in two places at once, and it speaks. Oh yes it does. Listen. Shhhhhh.
ZB: There is nothing like the great silence that falls when snow arrives in American winter, this year a pandemic winter. Smothering snow. Not Christmas card snow. Not cotton-wool or marshmallow snow. But lethal snow, deadly even. It’s good to have respect for American winter.
I’m thinking now though not about snow but sand, a long-ago summer at Three Cliffs Bay, when, with the tide out, the children ran away on the sand, dancing as the fog rolled in to mystify the beach. Wildflowers were purpling and yellowing, and my bare feet were full of thorns. Sinking into hot sand, it gave way and yielded only as much as I had to give way and yield too as I found a way of moving. There were things I could have said that day. Like, What I wouldn’t give for that baby to have survived. Or, I wish you would kiss me. But these moments slip by, and so the day closes, and we put on our clothes and go home.
The children run out into the garden scuffing the brilliant, white lawn with dirty patches. We throw snowballs. I hesitate to let them play in the garden alone. After all, it’s not safe out here. Or maybe it is just that, after four miscarriages, I know death intimately. I might be too protective of my children. I might love them too intensely. I know this, so I let them run far out into the snowy meadow, each a flash of colour in the far distance.
KE: The winter of 2013 was ferociously cold. Kenfig Pool froze over completely for the first time in fifty years. Dawn found me standing at its edge, a voice daring me to walk out, as if weightless over the locked deeps, into the smoky light. How far could I go? I took a few tentative steps, paused to listen to the ice creak. If I fell, who would see?
The water rail, evidently. It came tip-toeing out of the cover of the reeds, across the ice towards me, as if I wasn’t there. Odd little bird, with mousey wings and shoulders, long red lips, a soft grey belly. Was I invisible? I stood still, watching it creep further into the open. Every couple of steps it pecked at the dirty ice, like an old man finding his way with a cane. Closer and closer it came, tap, step, tap, step, right into my shadow, until I could hold my breath no longer and it saw me and was gone, the spell broken.
The sharm, that’s what they call the cry of the water rail. Up close, a startling shriek. But from a distance there’s a background note too, a quivering bass string, as if the sharm resonates underneath somehow, elusively, yet assuredly, through the black marsh water. One voice really, though you’d be forgiven for thinking there were two.
ZB: The winter I am pregnant with my second child, I wake to find my breath as icy steam on the air. Even under the covers, I feel the chill. The electricity has gone out overnight, and temperatures are below minus 20 degrees Celsius. They call it a polar vortex, a spiral of frigid air curling down from the Arctic. We can’t stay here. We have to move.
1 8 P O E T R Y W A L E S