I remember when the boatman found you
In the Schelde,
And plucked you out as if you were
Of damp black hair,
Knotted around a shallow drain.
With the speed of a Lefaucheux I raced back to that shore,
Swirling wheat snagged in my beard,
Still nestled in the sinews of my shirt.
I skidded my knees into the ground,
Bruising the sand beside your blue cheek and burst
Eyes, that burnt away any
Image of Ophelia.
Taking a second glance, he lowered his inky face,
Put coal into the furnace
And set his seventh course around that stick-thin river,
Leaving a trail of sullen foam in its wake
That grasped like spectres
To the vessel’s side.
Alone my heart gave way –
Banks all opened;
The painter became the canvas,
And your decayed jaw,
and swollen stomach,
And blackish nails
Smothered the white –
I then heard someone mutter and turned to see
A few years younger than myself,
Yet identical in many ways,
Ask in a familiar voice:
“How can there be on earth
He told me he had travelled from Auvers-sur-Ouse,
Where he tended to his late brother’s
“The sadness” he said,
With a wheezy voice,
Whilst noting the turbulent sky,
At this he forced a dead smile,
And left no trace in the sand.
With my face buried in
My folded arms,
I asked if you remembered that
The day your gnarled black hair tangled over your left shoulder,
Your white skin and breasts –
Now sagging with milk –
Felt the wind kick up from the stream,
As your toes
And the soles of your feet
Nestled in the soil.
You told me,
Before the returning flow of gin and men,
That I was the best figure you had drawn in
Ink and pen.
But I was not lorded over,
Or gazed at in bright rooms as you will be; thumbed by gloved academics
Our apartment was taken when you left,
My only visitors dragged grubby fingers over grubby
Tables and beds.”
All this I heard
Bubbling in the current,
As your eyes birthed tears
That sailed over the waves of your face,
A journey my fingers once knew.
But remember the crocuses –
I protest –
The blue bells,
Remember the bees bumping past them.
Remember them as Persephone’s children;
Recurring demigods amongst the grass.
Remember these as I intended:
Sketched out in front of you,
Protecting you as you wept.
But remember, most of all,
Remember how, when you walked past,
They did not shrivel away,
But instead, brimming with unconditional love,
Blossomed and softly laid kisses on your ankles,
Kisses that promised
Still always promising