Fran Lock: a poem



Gullgirl

Praemoneo de periculis

Listen, don't listen to them. Your day will come.

Up, like a satiny Lazarus, lapsed but swaggering.

One perfect day: figs, fair swimming in honey,

and coffee sipped to a rare liquorice conviction.

What matters least is waiting. You can wait.

And will. The years sink into you, like liqueur

into sugar; their sweetness holds the shape

of your dissolving. Not yet. Caught between

anticipate and rue, this tundra fluxes under

you. No mind, you briefed the birds: the shrike

and tern. Siege of herons. Guillemot or whimbrel,

brace. Days your tongue's a crypt. Days you'll

look a harbour in the mouth. The sea, one side

of a staring match. Gulls, auks, minions

of the guillotine, brisking their indifference

through air. The wheeling diesel whim of boat

and bonxie. Reeling girl, leaning over the rail,

learning into the wind, a birds' arithmetic

of mercury. You can wait. Ghosts are there:

robber earls, fishers of risk. Your teacher's

dusty lips are set in protestant compromise.

Are you stupid? No. But you carry this

flammable litany into her classroom: to hold

a word to light, to feel the salt against its

creeping lyric skin. Could you boil the English

out of you? Could you afford a voice? No. Not

yet. Skua: her pirate skew of talk. Your words

are English, not a language but a rationing.

You can wait, and listen: you are making

a nest in your enemy. You are the egg

in the enemy mouth. Child of chickweed,

squill, and bits. The pinks and rattles,

rags and banes. You'll crouch or squall

and best the tempest every time. Bonxie:

her tail is a taper touched to the storm.

Your eyes will be the heads of matches too.

In time. In time. Of course they'll hate

you. Their arrows of advantage. Luminous

with cruelty. A glow that eats through things

like radium, their language. It will take so

long. You will recognise your innocence,

the special weight of flight. Prepare a pocket

for his penknife in your flesh. I don't know

what to tell you. It will not end, this tubercular

tension in the chest. Not yet. It isn't fair.

Voyeurs with murmuring theorems. Sinister

magicians, palming stars. And you'll go where

the sea is different: a million pedant dissections.

Waves chopped out with the edge of someone's

credit card. You will not weep. Moths will eat

their way out of your eyes. You will not tell.

Talk has an insole's rubbery unfurlment,

and yours is the secondguessed language

of gulls, or dogs. One day you'll return to

your sea, your glorious accomplice, keeper

of gluts and damages. It will wake you, pouring

out. You will break apart, in the best way,

leave the bed as birds.


Dr Fran Lock is a some-time itinerant dog whisperer, the author of seven poetry collections and of numerous chapbooks, most recently Contains Mild Peril (Out-Spoken Press, 2019). Fran has recently completed her Ph.D. at Birkbeck College, University of London, titled, "Impossible Telling and the Epistolary Form: Contemporary Poetry, Mourning and Trauma". She is an Associate Editor at Culture Matters.