A flare-up on the surface of the sun,
a bloodspot on a yolk.
The most feared sign of all,
the lazy warning of a hidden wound.
Or what we most desire:
a blush, an orifice, a pleasant glow.
Red quickens the lips of girls, the fins of tropical fish,
the throats of jays, the end of a chase in a field.
I have seen people drag chairs out to patios
to drink wine the colour of poppies rinsed in it
while children turned cartwheels
on their lawns in front of them.
I have felt its breath on my cheek,
its tongue in my mouth,
its hand on my shoulder ― guilt, danger,
maladie d’amour and a county court judgment for debt ―
the colour of my fear, the colour of myself.
In the quiet of the forest,
on a bed of leaves beside a stream
I found an antler,
perfect, newly shed, warm to the touch.
An intricate wonder, a marvel I could imagine
crashing through bracken in moonlight
under a sky my breath would catch on.
And the deer who had left it on that dark hill
sharing the moment with me,
motionless among the trees.
I stood there silent
knowing that there were two of us
listening to the wind;
two of us
listening to the water
trickling across the rocks.