I write these words at night in a small room with your fountain pen / scratch scratch the split nib across the page and I / pause for a word and remember another room / a different quiet waiting for a word / a time before and after speech: / I lie in bed, while curving rails below pull / a tram through silence into sudden sound / the wheels scrape / an edge of metal grating on another edge / a screech repeating through the dawn until you wake / a sound that won’t unspool into the distance where the rails are straight / only at this turn will the journey reach a sleeper’s mind –
How could I see so clearly / the tram weigh down the track with its steel haste / lying in darkness on those sheets, my warm skin against yours? / How did I know your cool skin without seeing it – and the only other warmth your breath? / And there was silence, and another tram, and more silence which I could not measure / then rush of water in pipes, the murmur of morning. How can I hear it now / one thousand miles, hundreds of days away? / Your breath, ribs rising under your cool skin, my hand on your heart. / Your heart, unseen, working those hours in silence / silence, no need for a word. //
NANCY CAMPBELL is a Scottish writer and book artist who received the Royal Geographical Society Ness Award for her work on the Arctic environment including Disko Bay (Enitharmon, 2015) and The Library of Ice (Scribner, 2018). Her latest book Navigations (HappenStance, 2020) features poems written while Canal Laureate in 2018/19.