The Lesson. +3 more, by Vasiliki Albedo

It’s an August evening in the garden
and I’m reading about nyctinasty,
why some flowers close their petals
for the night, when the lantern I nailed
in place this afternoon starts to tremble

in an irreverent breeze, and I remember
years ago, waiting for the bus to school,
when a rusty nail jutting out
of a discarded plank, caught my eye.
I don’t know what impelled me then

to stab my foot on it, hard as I could.
Perhaps it was to see if it would penetrate
the sole of my shoe.
It went straight through, into my tender
six year old foot, though for a moment

I thought it hadn’t and was somehow
disappointed before the pain set in.
I hobbled home shoeless and crying.
And yet the tetanus shot did not
inoculate against the want to know,

or fill the space of what the eye alone
never can negotiate or grasp:
the hooked smile of a stranger in the dark,
a hairpin turn, a tantalising light glowing red
in the abandoned shack.

Not a Love Poem.
What keeps a star intact? It isn’t love,
it is a sort of balancing, steering the tug
between the oath of gravity, forever rippling
its one desire to shape and settle,
and a burning core, aching only to expand,
urging proton into proton, until its world is spent.

Sometimes all we have is fire.
I flame with you.
Sometimes, that’s all we have.

And you jumped.
Barely you,
sudden colour into a sky
with a ferocious sun,
red, like the torn up note
you left behind,
too interior to explain
anything at all,
like patience running out,
like your garden poppies
willing themselves open
for a day or two,
just to know the small
instruction of a breathed
out sky. Red,
like your Wiccan candles
oozing blurred luck,
making too much
of moments, like you,
holding yourself steady
as you fell
into the gully’s cracked
skin and jagged heart.

I never saw the birds.
There came a time when stifled in our home, I wanted to open every window and door. Lets try it out, I wrote, the thrill of new kisses. It sent ripples through the sky and returned my missive like a shock through the building. All the birds flew off. Our home still roosted with hope, though I didn’t notice till desire torpedoed. It shook and agitated the incubating sky, its own winged life, which settles for a while, until a door opens too violently. I said I wanted a greater share of the sky. I said I needed space, and the sky threw wide and emptied itself.

Vasiliki lives in Greece and has worked for international development organisations that combat poverty and climate change. Her poems have appeared in Beloit Poetry Journal, Into the Void’s We Are Antifa anthology, and widely in the UK in magazines including Ambit, Magma, The Rialto, Mslexia and elsewhere. She has been nominated for Pushcart prizes and in 2018 was commended in the Poetry Society's National Poetry competition. In 2020 she won the Live Canon pamphlet competition. Her debut chapbook 'Fire in the Oubliette' was published this November.