Every day this week the Spinoff Review of Books is publishing a new poem in the build-up to the Phantom Billstickers national poetry day on Friday. Today: ‘Words of praise’ by Ashleigh Young
Words of praise
On most drives I like quiet because my mother
had a habit of appraising every passing scene, calling ordinary
things, especially any animal standing in a field, lovely
and this instilled in me a strong dislike for the word lovely
and for associated words of praise like wonderful and superb
but on our drive home tonight the sky is categorically lovely
and this pressures one or the other of us to remark on it
by way of maintenance, like parrots preening each other
or like the time my hands were covered in welts and you were forced
to spoonfeed me – but we continue in silence, the asphalt a sheet
of cartridge on which the car is lightly drawn and erased
and the words I pick up and throw out just part of the script
in which we’re going to the bay that is inadequately lit.
Where the sky is burning a thousand photographs
and the sea is sinkwater through which our ancient condiment jars drift.
Over my shoulder, my mother is an object burning up in the atmosphere.
Out here our fairy lights from London shrink into their ball
to darkly bristle. Out here the stars bury themselves in a field.
She is fine in small doses, we say of our mothers
but I crave big doses, an IV flooding me with her words of praise.
A piece of red sky still lying in the field, saying daylight.
Ashleigh Young, 2017
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