Survival kit


Being alive involves
a certain quantity of losing,
maybe six per cent.

Ships planes and
hospital beds, letters
from head office and
blunders all contribute.

The soul travelling
looks for a cloud
and even in the sea
dehydration is
the greatest danger.

The wise provide
for such emergencies.

Knowing a friend may leave
at any time they hoard food
and water, especially water,
and bandage up the heart in advance.

This way they can afford to cry.
Which is right and proper
and the heart does not leak
and they say Yes, yes
I am saved, I have not shrivelled.

Good, good we all understand—
except for how and why at times
a person cries
from the opposite of losing,
from a kind of overflow.


Rachel McAlpine



I love you nervously.
The neighbours know.

Are we manageable?
Can you say that word?
Are we even valid?

I love you mostly with
a careful paranoia and
at times a kind of folly.

There are laws, you know.
I think we ought to whisper.
You have overstayed.
You are one too many.


Rachel McAlpine

Je ne parle pas français



In the light you were kiss coloured
and you smelled of dog daisies
bitter sweet.
Puppies of cloud tumbled
into the carriage.

In the dusk you were softened
to tabby, your edges fluffy.
You mixed me into the air.
Through the bright window
the sky purred.

In the dark your edges
sharpened, hard bird
with lightning beak:
the moon cut you out of the black.


Rachel McAlpine

(Title is same as the short story by Katherine Mansfield that inspired this poem.)