The Formula for Night
It’s getting late. Light
floods the public bar,
you’re the final one to leave.
The mirror’s silver eye
gives you back yourself, precise.
You’ve lived your life through
glass, you miss the brush
of skin, someone whispering
your name. You hear it now,
a calling on the wind, insistent,
a small but steady flame.
You carry in your bones a gasp
of summer heat, the formula
for night. You arrive at the end-
of-pier reveal – the heart-stop hour,
when this world briefly yields
to the next: a door that creaks
an inch or two to catch
a blinding beam. You want
to understand what can’t
be seen, the fact behind
the trick, the wires hidden
from your view, the blue breath
that powers the machine.
Raise your eyes to read the stars –
streetlight’s glare has cast them
dark; once-bright bulbs,
trembling elements crack
and fizzle as they die. Their light
is obsolete. But close
your eyes, and still you find
gold impressed beneath
your lids, a moment lived.
And when you open them again,
darkness is what’s left.
A Letter to WS Graham
Sydney – if I may call you Sydney – because I feel
you have been speaking to me all this time,
in the complex, common tongue you attempted
to decipher. And I’ve been listening, here
by the sea you said was listening. It is a space,
the sea, like all the other spaces you tried to
(de)construct, it is a poem that finds its turn
along the shoreline; a lament, a plain-
tive voice, like the mother of a drowned child.
The light is variable, and I write to hold it against
the shadows. It’s all we can ever do – try to hold
a moment disappearing even as we whisper its name
and place it in the light. Break here, stop
your difficult glances and cantankerous rambles.
how to say something about the sea
that hasn’t been said in thousands of words,
stumbling across the page like drunks, none of them
up to the job. The job is love, you said,
that’s why we stretch ourselves into a thousand
suffering shapes, like Hilton’s nudes or Lanyon’s thermals.
You made words of their colours, made words
for the sea that fancies itself a metaphor, too pretty
and brutal for simple truth.
now that your words are done, how to keep going on.
The coast stretches too far for me to see,
but you’re ahead, in a lonely place (we make our own,
you said); from there you must be able to see us all,
lighting lamps with our voices.
Flat Iron Square
From Formerly, poems by Tamar Yoseloff, photos by Vici MacDonald
Published by Hercules Editions, 2012
Visit the book’s website
From Nowheres, with drawings by Charlotte Harker and poems by Tamar Yoseloff
Published privately, 2017