Nil by Mouth, week 3


Still no swallow, so we’d brought things to smell:
lavender was in bloom and I’d plucked rosemary
trudging the dual carriageway from Silver Street.

Tessa brought various kinds of mint
from her Berkshire garden. You grunted
what we took to be approval. Encouraged,

I’d brought essential oils today. You had me repeat
their names: chamomile, geranium, frankincense,
rose. Your nostrils quivered at each sniff.

Then from the twilit depths of your confusion,
as if the oils had cleared some mental passageways
like menthol for the mind, with just a whiff

of a smile, you announced your plan.
‘You can leave the bottles in the drawer,
and we can have some more tomorrow,

instead of listening to music. One is familiar
with the music, you know. But one isn’t
familiar with this. It’s very … interesting.’

Along the dual carriageway I walk on air,
become familiar with this ballooning
happiness, held on a rope of grief.



Cora Greenhill