the Marlboro Review No. 7. Winter/Spring 1999 The Marlboro prize for Poetry Winner - 1999

University Hospital, Liverpool
Jude Nutter

    In the building
where she is dying there are birds
in cages that are still, so convincingly,
birds, on fire
with dark
flumes of music. It matters:
the last thing the dying hear.

    We prayed all day
to a god in whom we could not believe;
not knowing how. All day

     those birds singing,
and not tentatively;
their feathers, small coinage
of the body, tipped
from the sills of their cages, drifting
to the floor. The wild iris

    by her bed
riding their remote and solemn brightness


     and whatever gods there are
must love us fiercely
because here is a flower
that has excelled, so shamelessly,
and turned toward obedience
with its sex
exposed; each blowzy
stamen tongued with colour laid tight
to the petal, and like sex


    they rescue only the moment.
Never mind
that being loved fiercely
guarantees her nothing. The iris


    give up their viscid after-scurf of sex.
Such authority of decay. So much
like the smell of bodies after love.


    All day
we watched her
fall away from prayer: stormlight
filtering, lunar and impartial,
through the still room; outside

     rain coming in
across the Mersey from Wales falling
on the small, sealed leaves of the evergreens,
and the birds, fuming into song
and answering, as they do.



[the Marlboro Review]

Copyright ©1999. Jude Nutter. All rights reserved.