by Alan Kissane
The dead live among us like roots.
They grow in the loose
fabric of our skin causing us to itch and scratch,
prickle the backs of our necks, hands
and wrists, like spiritual Braille,
rustle in our willing ears
about the sadness and torment
of not being here anymore.
In moments when we forget ourselves,
this symbiosis fails,
temporarily severing the ties that bind us.
Clarity of thought, of purpose, is no curse.
It is continuance
of them and us, overlapping, a blissful
flutter of knowledge of
the before through and in us. To yield
to the yellow leaf is to suffer
in more ways than one.
My favourite time is the drowsiness
of morning, heaving
muscle and bone out of bed—
it is the dead’s way of being here with us,
root and branch.
It is hard, takes real effort. But is a sore joy.
We carry them in those half-sleepless flashes,
share a bosom,
a pulse, red blood cells.
These are the moments I live for.
To cradle the heart of my
grandmother in my own nest of tissue
for a time.
I never knew her
voice, her touch, her fragrance,
though she knew me.
In this chasm of dislocated seasons,
it seems the only way
before this withering disease severs her
roots from me for the final time.
Alan Kissane is a teacher of English in the East Midlands, UK. He has a doctorate in History and has published books and articles on the Middle Ages. His poem, ‘The Working Men’s Club’, is due to be published in Allegro this September.