I put on a suit of light in the ovum,

entered the long tide


saw the faces of my mum and dad become mine,

each wave carrying ancestors with it


sending a flash down each sleeve of night

in electricity of the past and to-come.


Remember the smell like sparks from the wires of the dodgems,

the tang of a struck match, black-dot fumes of a cap gun?


We crept as kids into the garden shed

and dared each other to put the tips of our tongues


on the two-pronged light socket for kicks.

Tingled in the after-shock –


sucked a 1901 dark-copper penny

to see if we could time-travel while the sun lasered ants


through a magnifying-glass on the paving slabs.

I don’t have my flying dreams so often now


but after my step-dad’s funeral I glimpsed a chariot

that seemed to move through clouds as the sun broke


and sometimes I feel I could still pull on the air

like at the edge of a swimming pool,


lift myself up to keep on rising above the roofs

and marram-grass dunes of St Anne’s


sensing in the solar plexus

the evening light open pavilions that travel great distances.


But what did it mean that night when the blood-thump

in my heart almost came to a stop?


In the dream I was standing outside our house,

my mother and sister behind me


and I had to go in in order to save us and I couldn’t

because death and darkness were going at it hammer and tongs,


waking me bolt upright to gasp for each breath.

It was the week after mum died.


My friend John has his own story, a nightmare

that turned into something beating inside his mouth


until in the dream he opened it and a bat flew out, bringing peace.

Once on St Anne’s beach near the pier there was a jolt in the air


and I smelt the after-shock of the lightning bolt

that just missed me, a singed strand of hair – a sign? –


followed by the bomb-blast overhead and the first big drops.

We listened for thunder on the train track, our ears to the rails,


became both medium and current for the electric eel

at puberty, crossing the rope bridge with its naked lines


as they flashed back and forth in torrential rain,

summoning the girls in their summer frocks.


The jolt to the heart that day as she got off the bus,

that smile she had. In my father’s house are many mansions:


the current blows the locks like the look she gave me once

arcing through time and space, because the world is dreaming us


drumming with wings inside that alight

then take off in new formations.



Graeme Ryan 2017

3rd Prize Winner in Torbay Open Poetry Competition 2017