In a clearing, against a fallen trunk
stippled with orange fungus,
we threw ourselves down
and gradually got back our breaths
until, with a regular heartbeat,
I could hear the wind in the trees
and, scared of silence, started to talk
about the kind of day I’d had,
its bobbing tide of alarm clocks
and missed trains, appointments
and cancellations, at which point
I heard a small sound let loose, turned
and saw that you were crying.
I tried to muster what must then
have been a first: to stop a stranger –
still a stranger – crying. I didn’t think
to touch you, but somehow settled
on the story of a circus. I began
with a big top, done in your colours,
the ring-leader in his fantastic top-hat,
a man who spoke through his nose
and could converse with cats and birds,
moved on to the talking tiger, the seal
and his ball, a man-charming snake,
then the moustachioed strong-woman
and gymnastic quintuplets in sailor suits.
All almost alcoholic, all happy and tragic,
their caravan dipping and rising
in a fresco of gorse-sown hills.
I stopped. ‘Can you picture it?’ No reply.
A jackdaw chattered. An oak creaked.
Finally, we got up. I reached out
to brush moss off your jacket,
to move a leaf from your hair.