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Calypso's  Cave

a small book
of illustrated poems

by Miles Mathis

calypso's cave

willowwand arm and rushlight nape and
downdappled upsweep to ripe amaryllis
like coral reflected through wavywater
one soaking strand lying seaweed-lazy
on a throat so fishbelly white it might
beat with the life of salmon eggs or minnow pulse
and down again swell to midnight dogrose
a redhill tumulus perched high on dovercliff
waxing moonsoft and milky above a plain of vein-blue
shadow shining like duskleaf and below
darker still surrounded by seahorse nest
waking to anemone touch
a shipwreck island
to swim and swim

Iron Taboo

She buried her hair
there below boards seven ells deep
safe with a needle her goldenthread
iron eye dazzling the dead
from her head

Our bed was straw
She spun it yellow night by night
and covered the weft with dead red leaves
Branches she tied into sapless sheaves
torches she weaves

A garden she dug
wet with sweetbrier, white eglantine
Propped up a grey groom legged in vine
priest-king with a penny
of her makeshift croft

Her hair lay long
like orphrey collar on moss-rose neck
The limetree hung her broadcloth dress
her nest of silk whipstitch
over muddy knees

She buried the child
deep between roots where the river winds
the bones a mother hides no one finds
and built for a boat a willow bier
knotted with hair
her own hands

The curragh she sailt
brownbourn down rindle to sea
river daughter yet mouthing a digging song
and threw a spoon to oceanrift

In flaxen bindweed seven ells deep
I sleep

For Mary

Like death your eyes go deep and grey
Their marble tastes of breath and sleep
and patient black and cold-ash clay

Your hands raw willowroots a-sway
White limbs move lithe and long-a-sweep
and eyes go deep like death and grey

Winterberry lips do curl away
round mine more murmur and creep
Go deep like death eyes of grey

The Cypress Wife

Melissa brushed the flaxseed from her drapéd hair
O mallow mallow and malmsey
and picked the bluebells from her skirts
and ladyfern and thistle.

She walked a'home through moonlight and coppice
Sing mallow and yellow malmsey
Unshoed through ponygrass and willow
and horsetail and rushes.

She thought I be seed vessel and him wind fellow
O mallow mallow and malmsey.

A lacewing brushed Melissa's darksome face
and greenly paced the air around her.
Melissa licked the night for passing ghosts
and whispered mallow mallow.

The moisture messed her netherhair
and made her silver legs move nicely
slipping noiseless and mothy and lissome
O mallow mallow and malmsey.

Great Cypress! called she to a massive tree
for one more kiss of him I'd marry thee!
And Cypress listened to poor Melissa
sing mallow and yellow malmsey

She kissed her fellow by bulrush and weed
and eelgrass and pussywillow
And turned to white wife of swaying Cypress
sighing mallow mallow

Death is an Otter

Death is an otter
swimming rings around the moon
riverdaughter writing runes around the sun

Life is a fish
gills wide in flight from webby paws
scaled son-of-stars, stippled child of middlenight

Death is a bear
dancing a buzzing whirlpool fur-fearless
and honeycomb drunk

Life is a bee
pollen-dusted in sexy flower hop
unaware of ursa dipping overhead

painting, you

a wide ripened the sky-hung lavender
red spread across the watery air
i yellow your painted hair, mouthing kiss
your pink flowering lovely like a budding
my brush touches greenly the open
and you close eyeing dark


The dead may air an applewood of greenrippling bark
their bed of dark
below a brown bough shady where it stood
in a white wood
shiny with the moon

Or leaves may dance an orange turn round roots above
a winding move
through clay black-grey and dust
and finger the sleep
from those down deep

Some dig dirt and taste sienna-yellow sap
like mother's lap
Some spread wide in violet-sacred matricide
of fallen earth
this bloody birth

But silver-rimed graves in applewood know children too
hills not new
I sleep on overarching grass
an apple canopy
is all I see


First, fold your lips into that narrow plummy
shadow you shake and winnow in your ways.
Place your eyes deep inside, awake, yes, but as under
a sunny coverlet, or as under a grey bank
of moss and black-orange earth, where fishes wait.
Your hands must go here and there, like they do~
moths disappearing in dusk.
And your ears, put them properly beneath the soft brown eaves,
yes, with gentle thumbtips

My Last Love

My last love
slept on a blue pad
in a sea of books

I moved them off
rustling in their jealous stacks
to make room for me

They waited like shorebirds
for the wave to pass