What does the hard look do to what it sees?
Pull beauty out of it, or stare it in? Slippery
heart on legs clops into the boiling swirl as
a pale calm page shoots up, opening rapidly
to say I know – something unskinned me, so
now it bites into me – it has skinned me alive,
I get dried from dark red to dark windspun
withered jerky, to shape handy flyports out
of my lattice, or pulled out am membranes
arched bluish, webby, staked out to twang
or am mouthslick of chewed gum, dragged
in a tearing tent, flopped to a raggy soft sag.
Yet none have hard real edges, since each one
is rightly spilled over, from the start of her life.
How long do I pretend to be all of us.
Will you come in out of that air now.
True sweetness must fan out to find its end
but tied off from its object it will swell –
lumping across sterile air it counts itself
lonely and brave. At once it festers. Why shape
these sentiments, prosecution witnesses, in violet
washes of light where rock cascades to water bluer
than powdering hopes of home. A hook’s tossed out
across one shoulder to snag on to any tufts of thrift:
Have I spoken only when things have hardened?
But wouldn’t the fact of you melt a watch?
Unfurls no father-car umbrella here. No beautiful
fate is sought, nor any cut-out heart renunciation
– if only some Aztec god could get placated! But he don’t –
there’s just a swollen modesty to champ at its own breast.
High on itself, it sings of its own end, rejoicing
that this cannot come about. Because I am alive here.
The full poem can be found here, and two other Denise Riley poems here and (a little way down the page) here.