Hera

By Becky Armstrong

Soft is a word too small to describe you,
Instead metallic taste like pennies or blood.
Face stretched in a smile as you appear around the kitchen door,
Lights up freckles and lines from the sun,
of no time for sun-screen,
because “the sea is there for swimming in”,
and glasses could be washed whilst we were upstairs dreaming.
Tangerine peel which curls up,
smells too sweet in May’s hotness,
and you sweep it up with bitten ringless fingers,
as Danny kicks my shins and we scrawl numbers in workbooks you paid for.
The smile is the omission,
the forgetting, the protecting and faltering negation,
which we saw only sometimes in quiet moments stood by the window
with chipped mug clasped against your dressing gown,
hoping your chilli seeds would grow.
Or when taking our smaller hands in yours,
we realised that they too were cold,
because an hour ago you held another hand,
which tubes and morphine couldn’t pump heat into?
Last breaths hammered in more metal,
you’ve learnt to be hard,
still stroking my bruises,
and walking me to football practice past men and sons.
And now more than a bus ride from un-stroked bruises,
and Danny’s a whole country away,
we falter down phonelines
but you gave me my own hardness,
alloys bound on broken teeth and battered egos,
which when I bit my tongue and tasted pennies, I thought of you.

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© Helicon Magazine 2019

University of Bristol