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‘Tears of the Ariege, July 2012’ and other poems by Selina Whiteley

By: Selina Whiteley

Tears of the Ariege, July 2012

The irradiated and toxic sun shines
against the agillate gulley, the discontinuous strata,
like those misquoted, askew lines when you try
to quote Baudelaire. Gadolinium and radioisotopes
glint on shale, like angry words in a fragile world.

I hold the rope to steady myself, think of you,
out all night, cheating, nurturing nestling chicks
as kestrels stood sentinel on Albi’s cathedral ledges.
I abseil into the Aquitaine Basin, remember,
almost a year ago, canoeing further downstream

where rapids frothed over arteries of Ariege,
but never, overspilled, as they do now, with tragedy
into the atrium of the heart. We grazed our hands on the weir
as we tried to control the direction of the vessel
in that rough water. Today, I try to calculate the charge flow,

current multiplied by time or the stream’s momentum:
mass times velocity and power, energy divided by time.
I wonder If our power, fell victim to the passing year,
if the painful spark I felt from your hand back then
has eroded, to something smoother, like limestone underfoot.


L’ombre on L’ombre

Les étoiles. Le ciel. L’ombre. I see these words,
Italicised, besides sketches of Corde-sur-Ciel, Biarritz
Pic du Midi de Bigorre, recall Occitania, and you,
orating. I remember how Les étoiles. Le ciel. L’ombre,
tasted like that sauternes sipped on the Biarritz sand.

See again, Pic du Midi Observatory, taste the sounds,
on my lips as we stare through the Bernard Lyot telescope,
see Les étoiles. Le ciel. You continue orating.
I gaze past grey outcrops of rock, L’ombre, arêtes
and cirques, to waterfalls cascading through valleys, like first words.

We drive on till dinner time when we climb
the cobbled streets to Corde-sur-Ciel, holding hands
under this patch of sky or heaven. You tell me how bees
taste with their feet, I try to draw the shadow
of ancient houses on the bare earth, on February’s umber fields,
L’ombre on L’ombre. Day darkens, streetlight flickers, to Les étoiles.


Adieu to Foix, 2012

We walk the walls of Foix Castle,
above the caves of Rock of Foix
at the confluence of the Ariège and Arget rivers.
Look at the motorway,
thick with speeding cars, like neurons,
along my synapses, think how easy it would be to jump.

In this mellow valley, I’m thinking of idioms and of à la fois,
when the Cathars Rose up, the commander said
“kill them all, even the children, let God sort them out,”
Such a massacre in the massif, yet, today,
the valley is thick with July’s wildflowers,
lilies, iris, Oreja de Oso, hiding that millennium old tragedy,
the blood between my legs,

I think how the baby, I carried for you,
this, seule fois, never came to fruition
like the dead seeds in the valley, blowing over tarmac.
I clutch the rails, remember the first time I met you,
in Wales, on an evening thick with barn owl song,

the last hues of sun gathered in a valley alive with birch.
I glimpsed your long body stretched out in his blue jeans
and your faded Greenpeace T-shirt.
on a pristine leather sofa that never fades from my memory
with decades, Le Monde on the table,

how we converse, on Sartre, on how Camus’ car was crushed to scrap metal, like the agony of tongs after that ultrasound
Till I opted for tablets, blood haemorrhaging, from me, from Camus,
with all the ideas that would then never find a home;
with all the hopes and dreams that never came to fruition,
and I’m thinking about our baby,
about the etymology of goodbye, until God.


Selina Whiteley has been published in two books, Up to Our Necks in It and The Kaleidoscope Chronicles. Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Literary Veganism, The Lake, Literary Yard, Neon Mariposa, Spillwords, Deracine, Pen and Ink, Prismatica, Thimble and Nebo, A Literary Journal.

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