Wild Court

An international poetry journal based in the English Department of King’s College London

‘Julian’: a poem by Sally Festing

Image by Andrew Martin from Pixabay


there’s a lost language between us.                             
I can’t walk through it but like a cloud it stays in my mind,
circling round the differences that make me sad.                               
Here, I am almost nothing among tousled hedges
on the sea’s edge, the calming marshes, the rawness
where I come to save myself.             
I’m an early riser and early sleeper
aligned to the sun and moon – I watch the mornings
when light falls unsparing. Once, my fine grown grandson,            
I dragged you out of bed with my fingernails the way
the cat grabs a teenage bunny from its burrow in the grip of its teeth,                  
a small violence the shock of which touched every part of you.
It strips my skin to think how you hunched like a target     
and cried with your lungs and guts out of your own short past, 
and wanted a parental hand to hold you firm.
Life was precarious
when there should have been small moments
you and I could fold carefully away.
Instead there’s silence like an empty plate, or a parched pond,
and the house takes on a sense of absence. Sometimes
there’s a lot of solitude in a grey head, although I like
to be in this peacefulness and hope you can learn
to love this place, its emergence out of the earth, to brace
the waves and walk in inhospitable winds.
You fly to hot haunts with heated swimming pools.
Here you’re restless, and I feel your restlessness.
    How can I find words we both understand?