blackheath

by Ella Standage

birds pick their way through windswept heather, and feathers
tread desire paths through the air. under wingbeats
light emulsifies mist, a mistaken ghost, lingering. children talk
of plague pits, not here, but everywhere.
beneath its centuries london is essentially
a grave. black is older than their voices: blæc. i hear
bleak, imagine dew on the bone-sharp beaks of
crows, nosing at what is left on gibbets. or i hear
                blác. adjective: bright, flashing, pale. bleached, maybe.
think of how the grass gleams violet in summer, flashes
under june skies, when rainbow
kites take up the birds’ paths, and the yellow adolescence of gorse
                proves monochromes false. everywhere i look i see colour.
how daisies perch between rotting poppy heads, how the tarmac
                thread of the roman road translates into
endless legions of traffic. flowers in the pockmarked dips.
the dirty amber of the highwayman fox seen late
at night on guy fawkes’ beneath the fireworks. blæc or bleak or blác:
                how can one word contain this? but then the mist melts, and
the november ground where we never buried anything sprouts
the dark bodies of crows, black on frost-pale grass. all i hear
                is bird noises. the wind. and the oldest name
                my ears can recognise. this: the heath’s sibilant rustle—
hiss—whisper—hiss—hiss—