THE FROGMORE POETRY PRIZE 2011

Lesley Saunders

SMALT

Did he see it coming, that blue?
It was more like air than anything.
Could he trust it, not to get too close,
              to stay in the realm of ultramarines,

the flat-out fields reclaimed from sea?
Not to leave him alone, untouchable
in the glass-like condition of yellow?
              I am an only child but the house

does not want me to wear black.
It loves the open throats of rose
and ox-blood, the aestival
              visitations of gold. The blue was

something else: the cool of wall
against a woman’s back, the linen
weight of her hem, as if the light itself
              were material as the jug of warm milk

in a corner. I remember the small
luminous time of settling a child
safely in bed, the beauty of the body’s
              response to dusk and its sleeping-suit

of selfhood: so easily overlooked,
like a species of unregarded flower
or the way evening in a stairwell
              briefly illumines a loved face,

that we are in danger of losing them
and making no record of the loss.
Faces on a simple blue ground, ghosts
              of the future. Did he see it coming?

 

Smalt is a jewel-like vivid blue pigment, which Hans Holbein used as the
background in many of his portraits of the rich and famous.


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