Air of Protection
A young man in a priest’s collar,
my maiden shift went badly –
I appealed to the bishop’s daughter.
She turned away with her hands over her eyes.
At a pinch, I thought they would show me the ropes
but my lack of skill was apparent at once
and bitterly resented. The rain put out
the candles. The placards went soggy.
I followed a well-dressed man out of the church
down the street into a building up the escalator
to the door of his office, a man with a diamond stud
in each ear. My presence there surprised him,
as did my great love. I didn’t yet know
that what is well-done is invisible.
Despite all that nooky on the carpet, you left
without finishing your sentence. There were other
voices over the clip of the girl talking
silently, her face a blurred, illegible print.
We crossed anew the little hilltop town,
no doubt to the north where the snow thickens
underfoot. I still didn’t know I’d been
in his dream: I like a blue-eyed beauty –
pushing back a wisp of hair – thighs
like a big leg of lamb. And now I’m here
in his story with all the others
whose shadows have stayed in his life
in rooms like this one, long and narrow,
splashed with prints as you bend forward
or he bends you. No further, he says.
My eyes will one day look like his, walking
out at last (grey-haired, gone in the tooth)
to lie face down in the untrodden white.
The crown of my skull – before the bones
were joined together – rested
in my father’s palm and fingers,
gave me the illusion of feeling safe
that believers have. It is mine
this heartbeat. It hurts when you touch.
Brush your fingers over her eyelids
to close them. Shall I know
how to cherish again? This one will be mine
with her touch that burns, beside the river
black between swirls of mist.
I am breathless from the want of you. I would hang
to the inside of your lung. This fierce attending
the light drained from your face. All their bodies
beside you. The sun lights up
one side of your face. Its frame
precedes meaning. The eruption into deep here.
The stranger gets off at the next station.
The other one is me.
………………………………………………..The first time I smelt
a girl’s wetness on my fingers
no one else was in the house. Behind her
the window with its telephone wires and
strands of cloud. Her eyes are faraway. The skin is torn
just here. It hurts when you touch me there
past the edge of the world. When a girl
spits into your mouth to show you her love.
Ian Seed’s latest collection is New York Hotel (Shearsman, 2018), nominated by Mark Ford as TLS Book of the Year. His most recent chapbook is Distances (Red Ceilings, 2018). Forthcoming is Bitter Grass (Shearsman 2020), a translation from the Italian of Gëzim Hajdari. Seed’s translation of Pierre Reverdy’s Le voleur de Talan (the first into English) is available from Wakefield Press.