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