Whelks is an ugly word
when they are a collective noun
of chinking that nestle her neck;
tiny roosting birds
in a camouflage of greys
on a red string of hope.
Her breathing is stridor, fractured.
Her clavicles fragile as wishbones
Here is the cold compress,
here the father’s slow caress
of forehead, forearms, fingers
while the mother gowpens feet
that have not yet walked, her mouth
moving round old words.
barely rising, barely falling
while the whelk-shells chingle
The awl lies on the night-stand.
His palm is raw. Four days now, of
twin holes in each thick-lipped home.
Outside, the rain tries to wash
the smashed three days
from the back of the axe.
a scuttling of brief chimes
between each dog-bark-cough.
Where the sea sucks at limpets,
fresh whelks are walking
their one-legged way into
the next day’s charm, and,
perhaps, a sea-salt sound
of slightly deeper breaths.