Claire Askew


Autumn’s come suddenly, like a flicked switch:
you wake to a column of your own breath
rising. Outside, the trees ball their fists.
You bale sticks thrown by the first storm,
get the chimney swept, and wait
for winter’s old ghost to show up at your door.

Nights, you watch the evening news: stove
kippering the wet spruce, hissing needles.
All the borders of Europe are being closed.
On the other side, the women – because
they’ve been called to the front – are teargassed
first. Some have children in their arms.
On the screen, a white woman throws water
in a kid’s face. You go to bed and dream
of a riot shield you carry everywhere –
wake up to a garden full of leaves.

The trees are going quietly this year:
dropping their useless belongings onto the frost.
Why wasn’t he screaming?  It bothers you,
the riot shield, that little kid’s old-man face.
Now, through the ribcage of trees, you can see
the crows. You know that you could also fall –
didn’t notice how curled in on yourself
you have become. In the sky,
the second storm builds its gunship,
and steers it, baling water, towards your house.


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