Clean sheet night

On clean sheet night 
they sleep a baby sleep 
dream milk dreams 
a white lake 
white swan circling 
snow fallen smooth 
over every crevice. 
For six nights they have 
slipped from perfection 
to wrinkled dreams. 
Their sheets have 
accumulated residues 
dead cells 
colonies of mites 
blood, sweat and seed 
the restless mess that 
thrives between the lines. 
But on the seventh day 
the sheets are stripped 
to new leaf 
clean sheet 
smooth as slate. 
‘If I were rich,’ she says 
toes wriggling as if they 
were about to scribble 
something new, ‘I’d have 
clean sheets every night! 
I’d check in as 
if life were an hotel, 
something sweet 
always waiting on my 
pillow, towels folded 
like envelopes containing 
only good news.’ 
But he knows they need wrinkles. 
How else would they recognise 
the smell of the sun 
the wind’s cool breath 
filling every line 
the offer made every week 
by a pair of clean sheets? 


my youth was glass 
pip of my heart 
on gut and vein 
for all to see 
dark currents bore 
me west then south 
to a place where waves 
shattered at a wall 
of grey shingle 
I wriggled through and 
dropped into my life 
bird pipe 
flax rattle 
mud suck 
green leaf 
spinning on water 
suspended in my small 
pond I lived my hundred 
years forgetful of the sea 
beyond the bar knowing 
only the dimple of rain 
soft blur of stars 
growing thick as your 
leg on shreds torn from 
dead sheep snapping 
at flies but never taking 
proffered bait 
I have lived as you have 
lived: cautiously 
but now I am old 
and the sea knocks 
at my head and there’s 
a taste to the water 
that was not there before 
I cannot eat cannot settle 
guts shrunk to dry rattle 
I turn head on to the current 
and swim against the stream 
drawn by the sound in my head 
my eyes see more clearly 
than they have ever seen 
they are rimmed with blue 
so that I may see in the dark 
that lies ahead 
I think more clearly 
than I have ever thought 
my brow flattens so that 
I may move without impediment 
through the dark that lies ahead 
my belly is heavy 
frilled with eggs 
20 million strung 
on velvet 
I am become lean 
and full of purpose 
I cross the bar 
on a moonless night 
skin scraped blood raw 
on sharp shingle 
I drop back into the dark 
into the ocean where 
everything moves faster 
and the lights confuse 
I find my path my body 
freighted with millions 
I am heavy with the 
future I bear it along 
the dark path through 
forests of kelp and 
booming cavern 
following the taste 
in the water 
and the stars marking 
sharp left and right 
I swim north then 
east one undulating 
muscle one blunt head 
barking at the moon 
I swim to the place 
where it is time to burst 
I heave and writhe 
torn flesh 
egg dances to sperm 
the water glitters like 
broken glass 
and now that’s done 
I drift upon the surface 
old bag 
skin for gulls 
old bag 


Fiona Farrell is about to leave for Ireland to take up the Rathcoola Residency, when she plans to finish her fifth novel – Mr Allbones’s Ferrets – and prepare new work for a third collection of poetry.