The Ground

Caroline Bird

You land on a ridge, six-feet down the cliff
and believe you have fallen from the dread
summit and survived, you think,
this is the ground.
until you notice the larks passing at eye level,
drop a cufflink and fall
fifty-feet into the open palm of another ridge,
deeper in, scratched, clothes torn,
you've lost a shoe but you think
this is the ground,
I can bake that lasagne now

till a kite gets snagged in your hair,
your feet meet a plunging carpet
now you're hanging by your necklace
from a branch thinking
this is the ground,
let's buy a puppy

as you sit in your bracken chair,
as you fall in your chair like a lopped flower head
face-planting — Yes! Ground! — in a tree,
wind-burnt from momentum, whip-
lashed by your own screams, oops, then oops,
oops, straddling a lamppost, a pillar, a shed, each time
you've survived, falling, landing, falling out,
who knows how long you've been travelling
down this thing, incrementally, held in the loosening-
tightening fist of a giant with a featureless face.
Thud. At last
I can put up that shelf. Make that baby.

You lie and let your bones heal, looking up
at the distance, experiencing plateau
for the first time, cold, hard, real, the opposite
of air. You shake like a prodigal astronaut.
I could build a house on this, you think,
staggering off.

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Caroline Bird is a poet and playwright. Her 2017 collection, In These Days of Prohibition, was shortlisted for the 2017 T.S. Eliot Prize and the Ted Hughes Award. A two-time winner of the Foyle Young Poets Award, her first collection Looking Through Letterboxes was published in 2002 when she was 15. She won an Eric Gregory Award in 2002 and was shortlisted for the Geoffrey Dearmer Prize in 2001 and the Dylan Thomas Prize in 2008 and 2010. She was shortlisted for Most Promising New Playwright at the Off-West-End Awards, and was a finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. Her theatre credits include: The Trojan Women (Gate Theatre, 2012), The Trial of Dennis the Menace (Purcell Room, 2012), Chamber Piece (Lyric Hammersmith, 2013), The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Northern Stage, 2015), and The Iphigenia Quartet (Gate Theatre, 2016). She was one of the five official poets at the 2012 London Olympics. Her sixth Carcanet collection, The Air Year, will be published in April 2020.

"Her phrasemaking is sublime... it's superb."
—Tristram Fane Saunders, February Telegraph Book of the Month 2020

"Bird is a master of bleak humour interlaced with wry social commentary."
—Poetry London

"An astonishingly assured piece of work."
—Ruth Padel, Financial Times

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