I didn’t learn how to tie my shoelaces
until I was twelve and three-quarters —
I was used to loving the mud between my toes,
bits of sunflower petals under the biggest nail.
Our house sat on a sandstone promontory,
and it shuddered when I left wet footprints in the hall.
I learned to put up
with the icy wind that crept under my bedroom door.
Winter arrived, and everything shrank.
Mud was replaced with snow, summer squash
with potatoes the size of underfed mice.
The sides of our house froze in the night
and thawed into damp oak by lunchtime.
I say “our house” because I’m allergic to tombstones.
My uncle tries to snap me out of it,
visiting every fortnight with the rain heavy
on his shoulders.
His silver ring digs cold against the back of my head
when he hugs me goodbye, and he never looks
into my face.
Pretending is easy when you live on a cliff,
an albatross your only companion,
braids of unused garlic hanging from your kitchen ceiling;
I can pretend, but I can’t light a fire.
The albatross has to help me, his feathers singeing in the heat,
and we sit on the flagstone floor,
staring out at the ocean and surrounded