Joy

by Ann Gray

When I let the chickens out, I hurl mixed corn
in a golden arc across the frosted ground.
I know it’s junk, they shouldn’t have it, they don’t
need it, but everyone deserves joy somewhere.
I’ve been looking for something I once had and miss
and want again. I meet him in the beach café.
He has soup. I sip tea. He has over-wintered
vegetables on his allotment. I see it on his hands.
I imagine all that soil on my body. Sometimes
you know what’s bad for you, might be good.
I phone my mother every morning to start her day
– the way she knows it’s me, the way she says,
hello dear, before I’m speaking. She needs someone
to complain to. A mother is a precious thing. I know that
now I’m sure to lose her. She’s losing nouns and I have
to rummage in my brain to help her find them. I tell her
yesterday I thought I’d lost a dog and lost my voice calling.
I found her back at home, shaking, not sure if coming home
was good or bad, or neither, or both. There’s no reward
for coming home if no-one’s there, no one you love, no-one
to put out a hand, or smile to see you. My mother knows
and tries to hold me in her voice. Mothers do what they can.
Sometimes they don’t get much to work with. She knows
I’ll chase that golden arc, hoping for the joy in it.
I hope so much, hope the wine, the food, will taste
as it’s supposed to, hope that friends will stay,
their elbows on the table, The Low Anthem singing
To Ohio across the garden, where all those flowers
I fell in love with will be just a promised on their packets:
night scented stock, musk mallow, lunaria, pale phlox.
In this falling dark, when hens shuffle on their perches,
I hold my breath, listen to the sound of my loud heart.