A Poem by Becky Armstrong: From Iron Bridge Hill

Becky Armstrong’s free verse poem reflects on the desire to capture a fleeting moment. For TWSS Issue #17 ‘Masks’. 

Morality, Mortal, Mortar,
bricks of bones and sinew cement hold us up,
To cement is what I want,
to fix and hold steady,
to preserve you in resin:
a butterfly in clear plastic;
take a thousand film rolls,
and snatch up every part of you,
whilst jungled arteries seep and change.

My handwriting scrawls on the backs,
of bus tickets and receipts,
You read a lot of American books, don’t you?
Said in a café,
on your birthday,
in summertime.
Meant as an insult,
slight and quick and smiling,
and makes me love you more because
I’ll breathe your thoughts and their true working.

Later we walk down the too-steep-for-you street,
to your clapped-out car,
and your clapped-out lungs,
make you stop and point at everything.
Too tired to walk further,
are thoughts you don’t want me to read.
So to stop me, you stop and read everything.
‘Saigon Nails’, let’s go there sometime,
Take down the number, write it here,
but I read the panic in your wheezing,
clogged up and dumped like old washing,
and you want open doors for wind to blow through,
and the freshness of Mexico City’s black and white rooms,
whipped up from the south’s warmer palms,
makes you a dreamer watching pixels
flicker and dance.

Old age is a veiled childhood.
It’s savouring out of last-ness, not newness.
It’s grasping each fresh and fleeting glance,
each crease of warmth and words stowed up,
like bean tins for a cyclone.
It’s freshness twin with fading,
that makes my insides somersault,
seeing you through the wrong end of binoculars,
time thinning and slips whilst I fix you here.

46

Artwork by Becky Armstrong.

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