Two Poems, by Anna Forbes

Mercies 


It was a difficult year.

 

As could be expected, frost 

seized

the fields and 

promptly lost its hold. 

Figuring them

in patterns that could not be read

as he knew he had once had the power

to read them before.  

 

Struggling each morning

over a burgeoning maze of 

ice, crammed with the stems of

useless vegetation

 

and–down in one corner 

a solitary crocus. The unreadiness of which

troubled him with nagging disproportion.  

 

-

For many nights, he lay below the eaves

on the bed he had kept since childhood

and thought about the burden of the land

 

which,​​ alongside​​ other fleeting things; 

robins, battling with a ferocity

incongruent to their size– 

the steady reliability of returning cows

lending their breath to the evening  

 

had compelled him to witness 

the terrible and unspoken diminishment

of his parent’s strength.


The swiftness of its passing only matched

by the slowly mounting bitterness 

of barely weathered winters.

 

-

 

But things were not always as linear

as it seemed that they​​ would​​ be. When the frost

came back    


and this time did its job–

blanketing the fields 

with a patent uniformity of bleakness

  

It seemed that he was able to find,​​ or was provided with

only under condition of​​ that​​ extremity   

some lingering reminder of a sweetness.

 

-   

He felt it, some days

in things as unassuming as the light

mustering itself 

for one last burst of intensity

over a colourless sky

 

and, on others 

through​​ the​​ quiet observation of his father. 

 

-

 

Noticing in him

some reservoir of undiluted​​ strength

kept, only for the most demanding 

of physical tasks. 

 

Or, on another occasion

after the frost had melted for a second time

the​​ cautious​​ re-assumption of a reverence

with​​ which he approached the space  

three stalls down from the store.    

 

Accustomising​​ its resident  

to the​​ startling​​ coldness of a metal disc  

and moving its surface to sound

the unwavering​​ presence

 

of two neat calves;

hammocked in blood

under the ilium

which jutted like a blade

in lonelier seasons.

 

 

 

​​ 

 

Learning

 

Coming in,​​ the brightness of those lights

ranged in silent rows—great swathes of fire

shimmering their way

 

 ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​ to the quiet inconclusion

of the shadows in Ardale lane

 

was heightened, even then

by some unnameable aspect of the evening air​​ 

to the perfect epitome of heartbreak.

 

-

 

It is a lasting blueness—​​ 

 ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​ steady as the dogs

 

that warm their worn-out bones

 ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​ at hunting sites, and sites for burning flesh  ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​ 

and the poorly lit margins

of historical advancements.​​ 

 ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​ 

Variations of which  ​​ ​​ ​​​​ 

 ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​ might be seen to lurk  ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​ 

in faded reproductions

of spaces evocative of romance. ​​ 

 

-

 

Boulevards, perhaps  ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​ 

 

 ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​ or the borders of café squares.  ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​ 

 

-

 

Or—with more useful relevance

to the purposes of our example

some well-known minor impressionist’s​​ 

most celebrated image of a street scene

 

in the foreground of which

 ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​ ​​ from under a growing exhaustion

a woman lifts her glass.

 

The artless precision of her movement

muddied into check

 ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​ by something like a pall;

of terror, or watered chalk.

 

-

 

It was in similar straits  ​​ ​​​​ 

 ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​ that my father and I

sat in careful thought

in a far corner of the Eagle.​​ 

 

 ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​ My father was weeping then—​​ 

 

in such a way that only I could see

after the memory of a friend.​​ 

 

The reckless and impossible hope

of his own bright start

lost to a length of rope

in some bitter and long-gone corner

of the family home.

 

-

 

 ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​ Optical science suggests

 ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​ that many of the capabilities of human sight

 ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​ should be as​​ impossible  ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​ 

 ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​ as witness accounts​​ 

 ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​ of certain religious miracles.

 

But still my father’s tears​​ 

carried on falling. Flowing freely then

over the ash-scarred surfaces of our table.

And might have been accused​​ 

 ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​ ​​ for sake of an easier out

 

of lessening his ability to protect me  ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​ 

from the mysteries​​ of his grief

or the curious and visibly important men​​ 

who hurried around our table.

 

-

 

But I have never really been convinced

by such tired-out notions​​ 

as the finitude of grace

 

 ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​ and I was already lost—

in the details of a painting

 ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​ years and years away

from the pressures of linear time  ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​ 

 

 ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​ and something my mother had said

about the methods some little-known ceramicist had employed​​ 

in order to fuse the skeletons​​ 

of anaesthetised mice

into a setting glaze.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published 28th of May 2022

About Anna Forbes

Anna Forbes is from Edinburgh, She studied at King’s College London, where she obtained a degree in Comparative Literature. Her poetry has featured in a range of publications including Antiphon, the Fortnightly Review, and Southbank Poetry.