Ben Morgan: a poem



Birthday


Tonight, like last year, we fish out the birthday tankards,

and my mind goes back to that night beside the lake,

when the spring moon unravelled her hair.


Mother and father were wrangling over the catch.

It smells bad, she said, the boy won't be safe,

and he said, the boy needs a meal.

There's still my bread – she said,

and I saw, like lightning gentled to sunshine,

that moonray spread out into cobwebs.

Silver lightfall dimpled the water

like heavenly rain.


That night, he dropped, in his rage, a new bowl,

which glinted the white of those tankards.

When I saw it, and what lay behind it,

I knew all colours were one colour.


Later, after my promise –

my mouth like a hem on a new shirt –

he led me to the edge of the water

through my soft mesh of tears.


We moved her, quick as a fresh catch,

the long silver line of a salmon

in a net made of silence,


left that night,

delicate-soled nomads,

never speaking her name.


I blink her away,

sweet mermaid

loosed to the deepest water.


I am here now, at this shaking table.

This soft new man has planted himself in our hearts,

and we must be grateful.


He receives, gently,

the endlessly proffered good wishes,

the jewels-on-a-plate tears of joy,

the singing that makes the place tremble.


Tonight, it seems his gentleness saps him,

wounds him like the first touch of autumn.


The line thins; my turn. My hand in his hand.

Auspicious day, I say,

allowing the coolness he likes in me.


He smiles, his dark eyes gone hard.

Judas, he says, you're too good to me.



Ben Morgan is a poet and academic based in Oxford, UK. His first poetry pamphlet, Medea in Corinth: Poems, Prayers, Letters, and a Curse, was published by Poetry Salzburg in 2018. It retold the famous myth through poetic letters, spells, prayers, sonnets and songs, as well as theatrical interludes. He has also published poems in Oxford Poetry and at The Sunday Tribune and The High Window. He has taught Shakespeare studies and early modern literature at a number of colleges in Oxford and is completing a monograph on Shakespeare and human rights for Princeton University Press.