Lizzy tries to still her sister’s storm —
a milk teeth tempest that only a mother
could quell — follows her father’s
engine scent downstairs

where dull studs rivet blade
to bone, blink back oxide-blind
behind his fingers. He draws
the blade on grey grit:

a take–take relationship
floods the floor of his mouth;
leaves steel honed
and stone sunk at its centre.

He sets pitted soles of worn
work boots on the bottom stair:
his third journey to the house’s brow,
its neck cricked and headache raging.

Lizzy sets her sister on the bed,
sees his aconite stance in the hall:
shirt front monkshood blue.
His index finger lines the knife’s spine.

He sets the girl on his hip.
His knuckles under her chin
shove wet cheeks and shut eyes up;
he draws his wrist to the right.

Chris Arnold (Western Australia)

From ‘The Black Country’

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