Petra White

Ode on the End

For thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle Psalm 18


A hackled old mind
crawls in its darkness,
a story-telling crab
cracking the shells of night-hours
tries to stretch itself
out of its thoughts like a person
praying for sufficiency-in-God’s-eyes,

so teasingly almost possible.
All worlds must
end, begin, end,
the rap at the door you half-hear,
half-dream, will come.
A gun, a god-wrecked man.
You sit silent in your bed,

upright, two cats at your feet:
they will die at a stroke.
The curtains will fall,
the money all gurgle away,
you will live on the street
in a trolley,
in the hide of a horse.

The bed is not wood enough
to hold you up, the solid walls
are not enough.
God pulls on His shoes
to run along the pebbly shores of fear.
He will not love but save,

In the Psalms He is outlandish and vicious
as Napoleon. He gives
you the necks of your enemies
(fear must have foes).
He draws up a battle
where perhaps there was only a soul
staring terrified at nothing

in a souped-up sky of its own.
Oh blessèd enemies!
Oh troops marching towards us –
such is the beauty of omnipotence.
Oh be at peace and sing (says God).
It is true that everyone wants to kill you,
and true you will be saved.


And when this dread recedes,
what will be left? Myself or another?
Everything is covered in dirt, my hands,
my face, this room.
Whatever will happen has:

Begin with love: my lover who tries to keep
me safe, take him,
then take the windows, the sunlight, the doors
that hold me.
The certainty from my hand that grips its object.
And my mind, what is left of it, this mind
hardly mine,
its words and images I don’t understand, take them.


The fear of death:

not mine but his.
Oh that someday he
must die is
nothing my life or death
can answer to.

sat by his friend
until a worm fell out of his nose!
So I sit
by him, uncomprehending.

He is alive,
and well and will return.
But I sit,
my lifelong love
sucked up into his heart.

Fear grasps nothing,
practising its little song,
its rattle of flies,
slow shrink of mind
and heart

to a field where love can’t live.
The future has passed,
the worst is here and worse,
you glut your teeth
on the tiniest bones of the banquet.

© Petra White

Appears in the author’s book of poetry A Hunger, John Leonard Press.

A Hunger can be purchased on this link:

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danny-wilten-orion-nebula-creation-of-adam (1)

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