Rose-grey fibres of summer

by Angela Mckean

I want summer to bloom.

They took away my books,
my life, the friends that I adore.
My hands were always cold, nails bitten to the core.

But then I made my gloves.

I knitted them from fibres, soft rose-grey,
with wooden needles, short with blunted tips.
My key worker, her with the mammoth hips
found them among the basket weaving shit.

She said I should be grateful.
I am 25, I’m told.
Summer is 1976. Lawns once green are brown.
The grass, like me, has ceased to grow,
crunches underfoot like snow.

Last month I managed to escape this hated place.
Crouched low, I fled,
keeping below their radar eyes’ incessant swivelling gaze.
Once out of range, I raised my head.

The smell of trees, the heat haze and the space
led me straight back to those delirious days
with Vita, with Virginia and the rest.
We wore our hair in tousled tresses,
drove to our country place in wind-whipped scarves
and silken dresses.
I heard again the scratch of pens, the talk of friends,
unfettered, free.

Then, once more, they were gone from me.

Instead, under a searing, grinning sun
I found the alpaca, heat-struck, scared but calm,
brown eyes sunken in its skull.
An escapee, like me, from our respective farms.

After it had drunk all the water I had left
it let me cull soft rose-grey fibres from its side.
I leant against its hide and in an instant knew its scent.
I recognised it as my own, that pent-up stink of creatures
pushing boundaries,
pounding lines,
creatures driven wild, confined
for exploitation, or convulsive therapies.

The stench of the untamed who scream
to have a voice that’s heard,
a choice to move into the light, to dream.

This creature is my friend.

Yesterday I escaped again and brought more water, food.
The alpaca lay there still,
but still. And cold.

Anger seized me and I kicked it where the fleece no longer grew.
A grunt of air flew from its mouth.
I was so frightened, so enraged
at the hopeless possibility of that sound,
its spiteful, momentary lie,
that I tore my gloves off, threw them at the sky.

I want summer to die.