Fay Musselwhite


The bone in her heart grows up past her throat
crackles its chill in her
                                          stone cold cheek

she can’t talk it away so she walks it
down by the river’s raw bite.

She stalks the rimy bank of a tongue
for where water will wear away bone
each footstep following one of her own.

On shale, under blear, limestone chains
lie like spines in the shallow gravel bed.

Snagged in rock at a weir’s head, a dog-leg
of thorn-rusted twig, hoar-coated

in feathers like bleached iron filings, clings
to robin-red hips hard-glazed
                                                      in the current’s breath.

Now the blood’s in her belly

the sleet in her chest hacks up, grist
to her grind, spits out over her lip’s crust.

Spume crests the bitter flow
                                                    melt swells.

By the lee path she leaves riven depths, treks
through woods’ winter skeletons, broaches the burn

to the ice field, stone still.


From Fay Musselwhite’s sequence Breach (the fifth section of the Longbarrow Press anthology The Footing). Listen to Fay Musselwhite reading this poem on location:

Watch a short film of Fay Musselwhite reading ‘Impasse’ near the banks of the River Rivelin (part of the Contra Flow walk through Sheffield’s Rivelin Valley, 1 March 2014)

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