CLOSE TO YOU
April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain
Beckoning your sisters to enter the historic
gloom, so they could smell the difference
between Catholic incense and Protestant
beeswax, you wore a tobacco silk two-piece,
swish and seductive though you weighed
only six stone with your boots on.
Inside the sanctuary your knife-edged,
pleated skirt unravelled from your skinny hips,
shuddered into a heap on the unforgiving floor.
April is the cruellest month,
breeding laughter, unseemly in a sanctified space,
you left in a huddle. Next a garden centre –
show the siblings you’d made a wise choice
– leaving the valley, the terraces, the smoke,
the grimy backyard where you and Billy played trains.
Now you count the flowers, the petals
you’ve pressed, a way to preserve memories
or return from an impasse – irredeemable,
insisting you can’t breed lilacs
out of the dead land.
I order yellow flowers from the florist,
cheerful harbingers of Spring. It’s still April
you nearly made May and your eightieth.
Lilies of the valley are nudging right
and left. Soon these, your favourites,
will burst into a cacophony of bells.
One night I saw you staring at yourself
in the gilded mirror in the hallway.
As if searching to find a self you could live with,
mixing memory and desire.
You lay in the bath, wearing your swimsuit,
for nudity was a sin. Dad found you
drifting, thought you’d maybe banged
your head. He called you Pegasus –
not after the flying horse, I learned,
but the bridge: Normandy, 1944,
sweat and tears. Restless rhizomes, chaste
but poisonous, will soon quicken
under these April showers stirring
dull roots with spring rain.
‘Close to You’ by Jocelyn Simms was commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (July 2021) judged by Paul McDonald
Jocelyn Simms is once again delighted to be published by Sentinel. Originally from the North of England she has lived in France since 2002. At the moment she is working on an ekphrastic collection of poems in both English and French inspired by local artist, Aristide Caillaud. Last year her debut collection, Tickling the Dragon, received the Poetry Book of the Year award. She organises Segora International Writing Competitions www.poetryproseandplays.com and offers workshops and feedback for authors.