Housesit in spring

They fuck in the borrowed fire-
          bath, luck a kind of furniture of heat      that floats them
while the day’s last shudder of light      inks the snow–strange mountain ridge
          mauve and midnight
          as a love-bruise      but still so white, stark
against the dun and dark      they can still see
                                                  in the valley


In the morning      he bares for her
          beside the painter’s double mantle
The heat is inside now
          like a sun on snow      that thins it into liquid      and lifts it


In the night they sleep a little      listen
          to the wind singing through the chimney      listen      to its blameless
whistle      to the glass pane loud in its distress      a little like music
and the valley outside in its dark past life      is just a thought
                    (or less)


He thinks of shadows circling a face      and how to capture it
with film      and the white keys      and the black keys      and the other half
of him      whispering      into her knees
He doesn’t toss      can make himself a stone
                                                            for thinking


And she is in another place      travelling through fragments of stories
          in the deep
finds      she can sleep
                                        through singing


What they don’t know about each other      is getting less
          they tell their catalogue of
                                        failed love stories
Who would you have me fight? she says
The one who said to call and had her other man pick up the phone
                              who said in five years’ time you’d still be doing
what you’re doing now
                                                  who said your world was smaller
      than she originally thought
                                                        who pulled it down
                                        in talk


                                        The one who said he couldn’t believe in love
though the night was warm      a February      a balcony so thick with smoke
from their own mouths it hurt to blink
                              who said the word (love)
                    til his lip curled pink      and woke your friend
                              whose house you were breaking into
pieces      outside of


The one who stopped speaking      he was low as carpet
          in the basement bedroom      couldn’t drive you when a speck of metal
blew into your iris
                              and wouldn’t wash free
so you took the bus      the bit of it, stuck, like a splinter in your colour
                    and already starting to rust


A who for every dead sparrow on a painted fence
          on the painter’s wall      in the borrowed house
each in all its hook–hung softness and sprawl
                    the painted feathers so real      once      you could have
                                                  touched them all


By Sunday, she bends      right over
                    a woman in charcoal
                              a woman in gouache
a woman with no clothes on against the weather a woman clothed
in luck                              Those mouths that had eaten us, she says
                    open up again      in paint      in story
tell them      back into the ground


Joan Fleming is the author of The Same as Yes (VUP, 2011). She is currently working on a collection of failed love poems, and will begin a PhD in ethnopoetics in Melbourne in 2014.