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The south face

(i.m. Shirley Beckwith)

This is the south face
Moss-quiet and chilled stone.
Here no sun's slothful coat
Or darts of amorous warmth,
Only long shadows on cold ground.

She visits every day: brings
The small things: flowers, fruit.
A new bed-jacket, her own
Covers the shoulders that hide the wound,
The fertile dancing cells in the throat.

Sarcoma: such a beautiful word she thinks
One day, trying to be detached,
At least from the night-drenched pillow
Wetter than the dying sister's, who fretful
Puts her affairs in order; a dying
As ordered as her life.

The sister dies one morning early,
In the dark on a bier of morphine.
She retreats, locks doors, endures
A season of grief.

Blast magazine, 1988