Christine Webb: first prize Seven Weeks
Seven weeks today. A July wind
is tousling the trees, rumpling the garden.
I have written five letters, washed the sheets.
A mistake somewhere – I’ve not finished
the crossword. Sit with the sounds of Sunday.
Thrashing leaves. Cows. Planes. My own breath.
All week the air has burnt: it is breath
from a lion’s mouth. No stir of wind
to brush the cheeks of the sixth Sunday:
silence quivers in the house, and the garden
shrivels, as if the season’s finished.
I sort bed linen. There are too many sheets.
A week leafed with letters. I scan these sheets
about you, half alert to hear your breath
until the words remind me that it’s finished.
So sorry to hear. Rain in the wind
hasn’t enough weight to nourish the garden.
Bells clang dryly. It is the fifth Sunday.
I wake in your presence the fourth Sunday –
not lying passive between your sheets
but laughing, striding in the summer garden
your mouth full of kisses, and your breath
sweeter and stronger than the June wind.
Why did I wake before the dream was finished?
Ready to go. I’ve nothing left unfinished
you told me once. But now beside a Sunday
river I want you here to watch the wind
curving sails, to feel the hauled sheets
as the boats put about, to taste the breath
of summer gusting down from every garden.
The second week I meet you in the garden
sitting under the oak where you once finished
fixing the swing-seat; not out of breath
but quiet and absorbed, reading the Sunday
papers, glancing up, rustling the sheets,
pinning one down that flutters in the wind.
I look out at the garden that first Sunday
when everything is finished. I smooth the sheets
and listen for your breath. There is only the wind.
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