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.)

Seven year plan


It’s time again for the pouring
of thistledown into the palm
for the skidding of sycamore seeds.

Butterflies with red hair
settle on me like friends
and shadows lean and bend.

Our eyes mate casually.
No choosing is involved.
Instead you would walk

willingly up my path
climb the whiskery stairs
and talk in a small cocoon.

Meanwhile my task would be
to make a salad for example
and perhaps

to open my eyes without melodrama
leaving the window


Rachel McAlpine

Like a chicken


You were a late man in your small
thirties when I found you in
the incubator.

You had been abandoned in your
youth for too many
early necessary months.

For years you chose a deaf
judiciousness and a way
of frowning safely at your feet.

Now I instruct you, enunciating
blunt clear clauses: ‘You must
trust me. I promise not to vanish.’

Some day you will warily
raise your eyes, you will feel
your ears unclench, and you

will run into my feathers
like a chicken.


Rachel McAlpine

Safe in the house


Safe, safe in the house.
Locked, locked
by the sun
to the couch.

I thought about freedom
the cold shout
the sharp blue and white
of your height.

I thought of another life
muffled and blurred with fluff
where pain is held in the mouth,
where backs are turned to the south.

Close for a time to your track
I found it bald and bleak.
But the sun shone white as chalk
and I thought my heart would crack.


Rachel McAlpine