Widow-black and winter, evening took me south into
lamps burning blue in the dusk. Out and over my hometown musk
lay the hinterland hills breathing low in the dark. Still,
frostspark sharp on the city streets, holy rain sweet
in the winter and the wet, with no evening stars ahead I let
the pavement take me home. Through the town nocturnal, gloam
and grey, my chimney throat coughing its smoke, I saw aslope
on the city’s slow spine those old black gates, the summer of my days
inside. Grief cracked my face. Those navy girls and me, a pace
always ahead. But in the pale stairwell light the ghost of my girlhood dead
in its fresh green spring and gone. From roadside wet I looked on
at this child of light, her afterglow bright, her ashes of life
already black. The cold breath of loss on my face. At my back
a schoolbell cracked at the evening air. I saw Death at my table there
tipping his hat, and the years in my face that sank as I sat
at that desk at the back of the class. I remember that. And last,
on an old December evening, down hallways dark the wilting hymns
of girls turned ghosts before their time, I saw their eyes
like candles cold, like lights no longer leading home. Outside, to the bone
I shook and swung, the darkened seas that were my eyes done
and gone at the sight of myself. Each girl ringing her own passing bell.
Well, in that mist and half-dark morning, my face a clenching fist
in pavement pools, I saw that septic, terminal school
for what it was. No, I never went back, of course.
I tipped my compass north.
Laura Potts is twenty-one years old and lives in West Yorkshire. She has twice been named a Foyle Young Poet. Her poems have appeared in Seamus Heaney’s Agenda, The Interpreter’s House and Poetry Salzburg Review. She has recently been shortlisted for a Charter-Oak Award for Best Historical Fiction at The University of Colorado and also made The 2017 Oxford Brookes International Poetry Prize shortlist. This year Laura became one of The Poetry Business’ New Poets and a BBC New Voice for 2017. Her first BBC radio drama Sweet The Mourning Dew will air at Christmas 2017.