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Chris Rice: a poem

Small Blue Thing

A jay has left a feather on a pebble by the lake.

A tiny thing, a speculum, it pulses like a piece

of sky that's briefly tired of floating. I lift it

from the pebble in the cupped dome of my hands

and tickle goosebumps with it on your eyelids;

sit it like a trophy on your forehead in a coil

of tousled hair. It isn't me who whispers "love".

It's some ventriloquist who does it for me;

makes of it a word that wishes it could be

another word or, even better, not a word at all.

We settle, looped and lassoed in each other's arms,

for silence. A quick press of the panic button

in a curlew's larynx shows us how elusive this can be.

I pull you closer, scaffolded with murmuring whose

smallest whisper silences all language I have learnt,

hanging on for dear life as the planet tries to spin us

off our feet, whisk us at the speed of light to somewhere

cold and empty, where darkness hums and, like a hive,

spills stars of silver bees; where, on a pebble by a lake,

the shadow of a jay is waiting, bald patch on its wing,

staring at the small blue thing that glitters

like a trophy on your forehead in a coil of tousled hair.

Chris Rice was a founder member of a London poetry group, The Pembridge Poets, in the mid-1970s with Robert Greacen, Matthew Sweeney and Tim Dooley. In 2011, he started to write poetry again after a twenty-year silence. Since then, his work has been placed or short/longlisted in a number of competitions and has been published widely in magazines and anthologies, including Acumen, The London Magazine, Magma, The Poetry Review, Poetry Salzburg Review and One Hand Clapping. Extracts from a literary memoir (Diary of a Pembridge Poet) can be found online at The London Magazine (October 2019; March 2020; June 2022). A collection of early poems, Call of Nature (Lapwing Publications), appeared in 2013. Both "Brief Encounter" and "Small Blue Thing" were first published ten years ago in Envoi (July 2013).

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