‘Skyful of Roses’ by Anne Swannell

We are a human mass
surging up London’s Primrose Hill in the chilly dark.
Behind is, our ordinary lives, the narrow streets,
ahead, what seem like gigantic roses in the sky—
burgeoning petals curling and folding,
beckoning us with their beauty.

A darkling child pesters us; he has rings
of snap-together neon for our necks.
Some of us give him a pound and receive
a sickly-green circlet that casts a luminous glow on skin.
As we climb, silent, shoulder to shoulder
we become—for those climbing behind us—
spidery silhouettes bent on some mission
we, like them, have always been plotting.

At the top, pink diamonds spray
from a monstrous pile of burning wood,
what seemed from down in the city a skyful of roses
is now clearly roaring flames, billowing smoke from
detritus: fences, storage crates, broken furniture.

But this is a fire that’s meant to be seen from a distance.
The safety police have cordoned it off so we can’t get close.
Nothing unites us or narrows the spaces between us.
Everyone stares at the distant inferno
with an odd combination of terror and longing.

Each of us turns, walks—alone—
down to the surging traffic,
the monitoring street lights,
the trains in their tunnels.
We are a human mass
surging up London’s Primrose Hill in the chilly dark.
Behind is, our ordinary lives, the narrow streets,
ahead, what seem like gigantic roses in the sky—
burgeoning petals curling and folding,
beckoning us with their beauty.

A darkling child pesters us; he has rings
of snap-together neon for our necks.
Some of us give him a pound and receive
a sickly-green circlet that casts a luminous glow on skin.
As we climb, silent, shoulder to shoulder
we become—for those climbing behind us—
spidery silhouettes bent on some mission
we, like them, have always been plotting.

At the top, pink diamonds spray
from a monstrous pile of burning wood,
what seemed from down in the city a skyful of roses
is now clearly roaring flames, billowing smoke from
detritus: fences, storage crates, broken furniture.

But this is a fire that’s meant to be seen from a distance.
The safety police have cordoned it off so we can’t get close.
Nothing unites us or narrows the spaces between us.
Everyone stares at the distant inferno
with an odd combination of terror and longing.

Each of us turns, walks—alone—
down to the surging traffic,
the monitoring street lights,
the trains in their tunnels.

 


ANNE SWANNELL‘s poems have most recently appeared in Coldnoon International Travel, Panorama Journal of Travel, and in anthologies from Leaf Press, Kind-of-a-Hurricane Press, Chuffed Buff Books, OWF Press, and Polar Expressions. Poems have appeared over the years in Anglo-Welsh Review, Americas Review, Poetry Canada Review, The Fiddlehead, Malahat Review, Grain,  Prairie Fire, Dandelion, Antigonish Review, and more recently in Literary Review of Canada, Prairie Fire and The Honest Ulsterman.  She has published four books of poetry, “Drawing Circles on the Water,” “Mall” (Rowan Books, Edmonton, 1991), “Shifting” (Ekstasis Editions, Victoria, 2008), and “Journey with an Autistic Child from Birth to Adulthood” (First Choice Books, 2019).  A fifth ms., called “Galloping Through Water” is currently seeking publication.

Copyright © 2019 by Anne Swannell. All rights reserved.