‘Purchase on renewal’ (1989)

(This poem was Commended in the 1989 Open University Poetry Competition and subsequently published the same year in Orbis)

Purchase on renewal
I broke the structure of our friendship last November,
Arriving one night, agitated beyond the protocol of our acquaintance,
Since then we have tested the shell of personal fragility
With supposition, jokes and the sharp tap of analysis.
Sometimes my words swirled erratically around the lamp,
And, when I wept, you waited for the exhausted creature to fall,
Creating a security in silence where I could rest.
Often I left you in the lost hours of a winter night,
Taking an unspoken strength from our sharing within weariness.
When I remembered the green suffocation,
The new growth and the tension in the glass,
I wanted to take the weight of the blunt axe
To the shrivelled stem of the vine.
But you pressed me against roots deep in the cold earth
And I felt their scratchings on the vast slabs,
Their search for a purchase on renewal.
We pounded out possibilities in voices
That slipped across the early stillness of the fields.
And when the whole planet seemed locked in frost
Our blood was warm in comradeship.
Against bravado you held up clenched fists.
Into desperation you placed the quiet word of trust.
You faced your clocks to the wall for me and did not wince
As I held the blade against the sensitivities of us all.
Now that letting go has enthused the tendons with a freshness,
I have found an unopened window behind the immovable mirror
And, on this straight road, there are turnings I had not seen.

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