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Samiha Radcliffe

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The Talk


In the dim hallway his head is full of psalms.
When he imagines it, the organ shushes in his skull,
but when he plays it, the dark church shudders,
his own mute sins bellowed to the crowd.
He is gathering up his quiet air, his mouth open
like the notch in the pipe, waiting to blow.


He thinks of restoration when he thinks of this blow,
this load that cannot be lifted by psalms,
he must carry it in his chest. Lord, I’m open.
He takes his fingers to his temples, tips back his skull
because now the doubt begins to crowd
and settle, at the hour of the task, he shudders.


Warmed by baking, his wife is in the kitchen, shuddering
chocolate chip biscuits from the tray with small blows.
Three dozen of them, like she’s catering for a crowd,
each carefully pressed with a fork, they are psalms
to the great grooves of the brain inside the skull.
The heat, her work, these thoughts are an opening,


she finds a place inside herself tripped open,
The true earth shifting and the ground shuddering.
A laughable hope, the skull,
everything stored within falling to the blow.
She remembers now the psalms
she forgot as a child, jeered by the crowd.


In the living room the furniture is crowding,
their son jumps across sharks and sea to open
the velvet stool and pull out scores of psalms
with their inky hockey sticks shuddering
up and down the lines, the papers like one big blow
knocking around with the balls and boots in his skull.


It’s like a caravan owned by his parents, that skull.
Everywhere he goes, they go too, it is crowded
and he thinks about becoming the wind and blowing
until the whole thing tips and pops open,
how he will leave it on the road, sparking and shuddering,
spilling his parents and their papery psalms.


He already knows they’ll leave their skulls behind, their bodies out in the open. They’ll be laid out in front of the crowd, when they think of it they shudder. A trowel of soil is a soft blow, a psalm to the mother and the father.





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