Three Poems by Amanda Huggins
songs of leaving
There is a photo somewhere,
long since misplaced,
perhaps marking a forgotten recipe
or buried at the back of a bedroom drawer:
you, sprawled out on the picnic rug,
pale curls tangled in sunshine;
me, leaning forward, hugging my knees,
grin as wide as a Cheshire cat.
I tasted warm beer on your lips that day,
glimpsed the end of summer
darting between copper-bright trees,
sunlight slipping slowly
behind blue-grained hills
as the band sang their songs of leaving.
And in the morning, parch-mouthed, bones
aching, clothes damp with dew,
you pulled nubs of twig, a dead moth,
the skeletons of leaves
from your hair.
Then you smiled,
and the music spun me round again
as though it had never ended.
the sparrow steps
Did you ever think about that afternoon in Kamikochi,
dry twigs snapping underfoot?
I held out the skeleton of a cherry leaf,
told you autumn was proof that death could be beautiful.
You lagged behind as we climbed the hill,
paused at the top, out of breath.
I laughed, said we were getting older,
but I remember now that you didn’t reply.
We stopped at a bridge and you sat on the steps,
unfastened your boot to shake out a stone.
I crouched beside you, watched you run your fingers
over a row of tiny imprints in the concrete.
These birds’ feet are proof, you said,
that we sometimes leave an eternal mark,
that we live on after our beautiful deaths.
We should make a pledge, I replied,
if we ever lose touch we’ll meet here,
at the sparrow steps, ten years from today?
It was an easy promise, I was so sure we’d never be apart.
You looked up at the cherry trees,
and for a moment I remembered them in spring.
Then I saw the uncertainty in your eyes.
Yes, you said, quietly, we must do that.
at the kitchen table
The late spring snow
catches us off-guard,
drifts against the henhouse wall,
blots out the distant fells.
And here, in this borrowed house,
we watch, transfixed,
brave the blizzard
to throw scraps for the birds,
half-wishing it could always be like this.
Just you and I
at the kitchen table—
a dog-eared novel,
the weekend papers,
the last bottle of wine
waiting on the shelf
until the sheep are fed.
Yet we know
the snow will thaw by morning,
and we’ll drive down the lane
for bread and logs,
ice-melt from the trees
pattering on the bonnet.
Then, too soon,
the workday grind will call us back
from this adopted life
to the small house in the town,
where everything is a little less bright
and a little less kind.
As we leave,
the weather will change again,
the brilliant shine of it
making us smile,
and I’ll point out a newborn lamb,
his pink ears backlit by the sun,
as he watches us drive away.
AMANDA HUGGINS - BIO
Amanda Huggins is the author of the novellas All Our Squandered Beauty and Crossing the Lines, as well as five collections of short stories and poetry. She has won numerous awards, including two Saboteur Awards for poetry and fiction, the Colm Toibin International Short Story Award 2020 and the H E Bates Short Story Prize 2021. She was also a runner-up in the Costa Short Story Award 2018 and the Fish Short Story Prize 2021, and has been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize, The Alpine Fellowship Award and many others. Amanda lives in Yorkshire and works in publishing.