On the day Obama was inaugurated

a spurt of dark blood
marked the final cycle of my life. 
I didn’t know then the egg would be my last –
that this was change – but the day felt full
of possibility. A man brought a canvas
he’d painted and helped me hang it
on my green and yellow backroom wall –
such exuberance, the colours stranger
than any I would imagine again.
He told me, later, there was a
charge in the air that day, a crackle –
how he’d longed to see me naked.
48 and all this was just beginning –
love, colour, the chance to get things right.


Elizabeth Barrett


Dolce Vita

The Tower

Siesta time in Vezio
but the hawks on their tethers
in the shade of the castle
stayed watchful

eight flights up, we bent over battlements
to the cardinal points: three giving onto
the sun-shocked lake, one to a huddle
of roofs below,

which was where I came up behind you
my gentle pressure responded to
by pressure of your own: no one around
why shouldn't we there and then?

but something in the sunlight held us back,
only in the cellar's
furthest, darkest room
did the right moment come:

the tower, the vaulted door at its root
and the peregrine
stretching out a talon in the heat
extending one miraculous wing.

At Table

That night, in Henry Fielding mode,
a citronella candle on the table
the lights of Varenna necklacing the lake,
we do the Tom Jones thing
of last course best.

As the sweet plate's pushed aside
your skirt's pulled slowly back,
what's sundaed there
brings me to my knees
to mouth a breathless grace.

Which opened shutters on the floor above –
to be as swiftly shut.
You simply pulled me closer
to the wall, pushed the table
out of harm's way. On cue,

the last Bellagio ferry broke in with a hoot
and crash of gangways pulled ashore.
Which might have been a metaphor
for getting up to leave, not slipping off
as we did then, to bed.

The Exciting Bit

I was born to fuck you: said, in thrall
before the seed-pearl spur of you,
the milky blindness of its eye;

while you, still book in hand, plough on
towards the plot’s denouement:
Go on then, get on with it.


John Sewell


Elizabeth Barrett has published four collections of poetry, most recently 'A Dart of Green and Blue' (Arc, 2010).

John Sewell has had two collections published, the last, 'Bursting The Clouds', from Cape.