Fiona Sampson - Scenes From Coleshill

The early dark thrums with wings,
shadows scud between headlights.
A window at the road’s end gleams
like a gaze: too long, misplaced.

He changes shape. The autumn nights
permit this, with their mint of smells,
the ash-and-damp notes of a dream
you remember, blurred as wings

flurrying into a windscreen:
huge eyes, blackened by the lights –
because sometimes he’s an owl. Or he’s a swan,
or Caucasian male, clean-shaven, age unknown,

or this plumed and gleaming angel
at the door, with his knife.


The small cat inside the hut,
looking out of the glass door
at the dog scratching that door,
places her paws together
with unconscious care
on the blue square of the mat.

Grace is a secret clockwork,
she seems to say. Which is true.
We’ll never arrive at the truth –
I mean, we can never undress
right down to how we were
in our conception’s new caress

when the membrane spilled the dreaming yolk;
when self first broke and entered self.


Downhill… and I met myself,
a pale ghost glimmering
the way a poacher’s torch shines
there – now there – between the trees

so it seems at moments as if
they too are ghosts, walking
in a new light, coming
out of memory towards you…

When we met, myself and I,
each cast the other into a kind
of shining shadow,

the younger self ascending through me
like a shiver, as I turned
toward the house below.


On summer evenings
air thickens – and settles,
dust dropping onto shelves of books
silently – settles.
These evenings lift from the pages of books,
or out of dreams.

Write your name in the dust
that blooms on a polished table,
fleet wild pollen.
Dusk’s a wide, blue table
and we’re numberless as the settling dust –
little souls, barbed like pollen
with selfish, unassuageable dreams.


The metals of the pipes do not agree,
and iron is the sacrificial anode

is what the landlord’s plumbing expert
said when he called today.

And here comes a host of small exchanges
as if from the electric world:
pulses, tremors of antimony,
tremors under your skin at night.

Something is adjusting, or
anyway changing, iron
pipes and copper pipes at war –
a high-pitched shiver thrills the plumbing.

The house, the whole world, is shaking.
If you’re not dead you’re doing alright.