Issue 22: Stuart Pickford

Getting Out

Looking down from the bridge,

your face melts in the stream.

The ghylls and sykes drain

to this place, leave the fells

creased by the pull of the sea.

At Stainforth Force, the salmon

leap, muscle against the spume

to find their birth-pool to die.

I don’t ask how you are.

I’ve brought you here to climb.

The rock’s dry and lying back

Pen-y-ghent in the sun.

You think it’s Cumbric, means

head in the clouds, if anything.

The fields are settled with walls

like a puzzle that’s been solved.

The holds fit our hands, the slab

is warm. We’re almost good.

We stop on a limestone shelf,

sip water, take a moment.

Below, the Ribble’s a detail,

an old line of thought.

I’m telling you a bloom of lichen

is feeding on the air itself.

Top Five Places to Get Wed

On the shipwreck of the luxury liner,

The Maheno, beached on Fraser Island.

Helicoptered in, the vicar stands amidships

straightening his vestments. Reception,

an eco lodge stalked by dingos.

At 10,000 feet over Machu Picchu,

skydivers holding hands in a circle,

ceremony on coms. The groom sees happiness

flash before his eyes like a life. A parachute—

the bride’s silk train flapping above.

In the Red Sea, vicar in flippers.

His words any lawful impediment bubble

to the surface. Octopi and squid congregation.

Snorkelling off, the happy couple are flying.

A lifetime ahead keeping tropical fish.

On the salt pan beside Route 66.

Her ute facing west, his Thunderbird east.

Midnight. The two of them in headlights.

Vicar on a mobile and, just by chance,

Wilko Johnson pulling into a lay-by.

Not under hairy coconuts in Hawaii,

groom in tie and sarong on the beach,

bride garlanded and pollen count low,

the big fat wink of the wedding ring,

bemused sunset pulling its tan expression.

Best of all, in the registry office in Ipswich,

everyone bussed up in a ribboned charabanc,

reception in your parents’ garden, Uncle Keith

snapping the group from the bathroom window.

That’s the one, every time. Me and my Jan.

Stuart Pickford has been the winner of a major Eric Gregory Award from the Society of Authors. His first collection was The Basics, which was shortlisted for the Forward Best First Collection prize. His second collection is Swimming with Jellyfish, published by smith/doorstop. He has previously been featured in Issue 12 and 16 of Blackbox Manifold.

Copyright © 2019 by Stuart Pickford, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of Copyright law. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.