Isobel Terry

Fire rages gloriously.

It’s a cold winter morning and the priest is determinedly walking with a dog in the rain on an empty beach. The sky and sea are a confused hazy blue grey. The tide is going out and shells lie scattered on the sand. The wind has dropped, small waves murmur as they break. Shhhh, shhhh. They cling to the shore leaving a wiggly line of bubbles. His head is bent eyes cast down, behind him his boots imprint in the sand. A wide stride and an almost straight line. His heart judders, his breathing is shallow and the rain is beginning to seep through his woollen coat. He raises the collar up around his neck. The dog knows the beach well yet does not belong to him. He walks with him as a friend.

Fire reveals everything; yielding clinging falling into fathoming depths

And how can I speak of him, or write of him, of falling into that love, of such a suffering soul, and of such beauty? It needs a new language, the tracing of his bones and the touching of his flesh. And that last meeting before I lost him to the cloth we lay together in my small brown Renault. The seats right back. It was August in the Cheviot hills. He had been visiting Scotland, we met at Berwick on Tweed, on the border. In an empty car park over looking a reservoir the windows steamed up with our breath. On Hadrian’s wall he had stood astride for me to take this picture. How handsome a Roman invader. At a stile he took hold of my left hand to help me over and held it longer than I would have expected. I should have pulled it away. I did not want to. The flesh of his hand was exciting, warm and smooth.

Fire light fleets and flickers on flesh; flaunting flurrying fingertips .

Our arms around each other I kissed his neck. The smell of him, of rolled tobacco, pine resin and almond oil. After he died I remember searching for it in his robes nuzzling them with my face, yearning for a last sense of him. He placed his hand on my left buttock, clutched it and pressed his body into me. I shivered vigorously, my cells shaking. He looked a little startled yet held me tighter and my eyes filled with tears at the relief of it, the comfort of it. The potency of possibility, of sex, of love, of finally finding home. I remember sobbing like a baby lying in his arms. The sorrows of my whole life pouring into that moment. That first moment of tenderness, a hint of joy waiting to explode

Fire brightens fearless then dies. Ash remains. Advances from nothingness ignite.

He stops and stands still turning towards the sea. His boots sink a little into the sand. A slight shiver down his spine. Suddenly there is no shoreline between his body and the sea. It is all heaven, the unfathomable ocean, holding the vastness of sorrow. The grammar of grief, the loss, is not a noun but an eternal verb like god. He feels warm inside his coat damp, his heart beats steadily. He breathes slow and deeply. The dog has stopped beside him, its snout sniffing the salt air. The rain has stopped.

Isobel Terry

A storm child

It happened only once. Bristol. It is the month of September, the twelfth day. The maternity hospital at the top of Black Boy hill. A lightning strike, her signal to descend. A storm child born into a rumble of thunder. One sharp crack announces her arrival. She, youngest of three girls, comes with speed her mother barely in the delivery room, her soft head drops into my hands. My name is Carmen. Her mother invites me a month later to drink tea in her drawing room in Clifton, the other side of town. The new born sleeps in my arms. When she wakes she has a wide smile and sparkly eyes. Four decades, four years and four months later l ife changed in an instant. Just after midnight, a chill. A blue tremor of air. Then complete infinite darkness.

Cumulonimbus clouds gather

There came a day that caught the summer. In Yorkshire on the sixteenth of August. Sisters clear a garden that is not theirs. Secateurs, a rake and trowel. The escallonia is everywhere, an invader of space. ‘ I like giving the weaker plants the space to grow’ the middle one says to the eldest as she snips with speed throwing its spiky branches over the fence. A pink hydrangea comes into view gasping for light. The eldest clears a patch of earth with the trowel while the other makes hay. The smell of vanilla. On the buddleias’ last cones of cream a tortishell butterfly rests in sunlight. The two sister lie on theirs backs on the earth,warmed, ripened and dependable. A dug bed awaits tulip bulbs for spring. A flutter of wings vanishing over the fence.

A taste of lightning

In a pocket of my pink rucksack I have a photo of you, my baby sister. It nestles in an envelope of shiny lilac paper. It was tradition the seventh birthday outing when we went to London alone with Mummy. In Trafalgar Square you squat on the stone square with seeds in your hands wearing a tweed coat with velvet collar and double breasted buttons. A bob cut with a fringe. Pigeons flutter around you. They peck on the flesh of your palms. The pillars of the National Gallery are your back drop. You smile as she casts her eyes down catching you in her box camera. Kisses land on your face. Still to be with you. I stroke your little cheek with my fifty year old thumb.

A muttering of thunder

I saw her from the ward door she looked bloodless, blank and exhausted, her face strained with lines. She recognized me instantly raised her head and mustered a weak smile ‘ Ahh sorry you had to miss seeing Bren.Thanks for coming ‘. I sit by her hospital bed and take hold of her hand rubbing the top of her thumb lightly with mine. I sense she cannot feel it. The motion gives me a purpose and consoles me. A slither of reassurance holding us back from the magnitude of death. A faint smell of petrol in her hair. ‘ I don’t want you to die’ I say softly.’ Oh so you want me to suffer then’ she quickly replies, a sharp blade through the space between us into my heart. I cannot speak. My thumb continues its motion, to stroke hers. Her skin next mine for the last time. I leave and walk out into December sunshine.

None sees God and lives

I am a corpse. It worked this time. I lie in the mortuary covered in a green cloth. I know you will come.The phonecall you received the night before.The motorway south from Leeds is lined with small rainbows. I am certain you will notice me. On the way you tell Louise of the tragic news.’ Beyond words ‘ you text her. You are not the first to enter to identify me, you come in after my husband. I sense you through my eyes that cannot now see. Vision is the first to go.The policemen Mark who found me sits quietly behind, I am in his gentle custody. You place your right hand over the place of my heart and the left on the crown of my head. It is wide open,it closes with your touch.You kiss my forehead. I am frozen. A chill lingers on your lips. A sparkle drops from my right eye still slightly open. A diamond for you. I am after all light, a window through which we can touch.

The last instant of things as they were.

Isobel Terry

The earth is not solid.

April 2nd 1981 Bristol. A volcanic eruption; a secret history laid bare. The earth was not as solid as she had assumed. That night she could not sleep. A night without dreams. A faint smell of smoke seeped in through the sash window left ajar. She opened it wide and leant out. In the distance flames roar into the sky: a wall of orange and raspberry red against blue black. The next day she tells her mother she is going to town. She walks. Her feet take her through back streets to the city centre. Then to a place she had only heard of in the local paper.  A place hidden from her reality.

Early morning. These streets reveal the nights ashes of deliverance; smouldering buildings, burnt out cars, smell of burnt rubber.  A  police siren. Damp pavements from fire fighters hoses. Then there is an eerie silence, a car drives past. A man takes pictures from its window. Her feet stop walking she stands still, her heart is beating in a dead end street. A deep breath. Waiting. Wondering what is to happen now.?  A man walks past on the other side of the road, his head lowered .Her heart beats faster, words lodged in the back of her throat. ‘ jump out of her mouth ‘Excuse me’  she asks as soon as he comes within ear shot  ‘Can I ask you a question ?’ She crosses the road towards him.

I first hear her voice. A  female voice, an accent of Queens English. Something in its tone and tune stops me walking on. I look behind me. And in the moment  I see a young women. She is not from round here. I know that. I notice her eyes, blue and direct staring straight at me. I sense her soul resting there. Her shoulders are slightly risen, one higher than the other. Her ancestors sit there. And  the tension in her chest, the furrow of her brow, a slight holding of her breath, these places hold  the shadows of her existence. .

I am curious. I tip my hat back a bit, let her see my face. I raise my eye brows to let her know I am listening. I know her question before it falls from her mouth.  A fluid moves down the inside of my spine. A slow sustained rhythm  I notice her lips are slightly parted. Her voice, ‘ Why did this happen ? ‘ she asks. I sense a deep innocence. A sturdy stature. And her land deep beneath her feet. The bedrock of the city imprinted on their soles.  A moment of suspension. A doorway is opening for my voice, to be heard. Mine is a voice of silenced dreams. Of dreams taken from us. I know as soon as I speak, mark my words, her world will change forever. Her earth will reveal its fissures. She will fall into a void  of reckoning. Her bloodlines will rupture. Fluids from cells will cascade across opening membranes. Our ancestors will collide. And decades later we will meet again.

Isobel Terry


And isn’t life a prayer uttering itself alive?
She, a child, kneels by her bed her eyes tightly shut,
her palms pressed close together. She speaks in whispers
lit by her bedside light. She remembers
the sound of the clock ticking in the warm kitchen.
His footsteps found flight, his breath shortened
Her bitten nails tell of when her blood flowed
with his ejaculation. In her sobbing
she sees a large turtle flying without wings.
it calms her, and suddenly from the back of her heart
her dead mother calling her name. A star of the night
tips into a void of understanding and through a thin sheet
of light, although she cannot pray, a prayer utters itself,
a prayer for my mother, I am deeply touched.

Isobel Terry


At the garden party I watched her closely as she sheeped across the grass, others followed in a line. They made a muddy track that I will later assume is recognised pathway. I sheepishly encounter you now alone in a the green house. You have been separated from the rest. Your eyes dart from side to side,maybe you fear I may kill you. I boldly place my hand on your shoulder to reassure you that that is not my intention. It sinks into your soft creamy yellow jacket a bit grey with grime. After I smell wax on my palms. You look up startled and your cool intelligent eyes, grey banded agate and amber  say to me ‘ Never forget your vocation, your lineage from your mothers maiden name, never forget who cares for our flock ‘.She seemed to know that I wandered in search of green pastures, she seemed to know my hidden destiny.’ I pause, sheeping out into the sunlight scattered on the lawn. I leap in the lightness of her recognition. The lamb in me is still alive.

Isobel Terry

The mountain

I am on fire ragging into the darkening sky,
the molten fluid beneath my bedrock smoulders on my skin.

I am solid silence, a reference to your orientation
I go nowhere, I go to the beginning of time.

I was born at the bottom of the sea, the whales sing my song.
I am magnificence petrified on the foreshore

conceived at a place where lands collide,
liquid hardening with air when the seas departed.

I am minerals of resistance on a continent drifting;
an anchoring of layers, granite, sandstones and shale

yet when you are very close to me I am not.
I am many and I am one. I am nameless, given many names.

I know the names of you and her. I am many.
I am the secret place to which she fled,

the rocky path up which she climbs,
the steep sided canyon into which she falls.

A gasp of breath, her muscles stretch and strain,
those strong arms that washed clothes in my roaring stream.

I am her gorge, a place to hide from her lecherous master.
I am a cloud-swept dream covering her with a veil.

I see your chiselled face in the half light
and hear a howling of sorrow as day breaks.

I am a grave that holds her bones,
grains of minute tone embedded in rock

and lifting them towards the summer moon
then I shall speak, not of self, but of molecules of story.

I will blacken out the sky, darkening to a shadow,
you will hear a scream, stiffened by silence, Isobel are you listening ?

Isobel Terry

The fountain

I am shooting into the air
curving back with gravity

into the large pool
from which I came.

I recede in curved lines
into the distance

holding sounds of words
in exhilarating breath.

And are your ears listening
I wonder ? You do not care

your ears have closed over
and can not hear.

I see you on a seat
by the border.

The gardeners are here,
you lift your head

your eyes rest on the curves
of their shoulders.

I am waves of pain
you stand

walk towards me
and with your finger cut

across my line
of flow.

Suddenly I am shooting

a gush of fluids
across cellular membranes

an opening
into which I pour

words of sorrow
you write on a page.

An iris in full purple bloom
stands guard.

Isobel Terry

The Inquest

The muscle of the wind
thrashes at her Ford Fiesta .
It nestles in beech trees,
in a nursery just off the lane.
She filled the tank and
I wonder did the person at the garage till gave her a smile ?
Her last smile. The receipt found in her satchel on the passenger seat
with her handwritten notes ‘ dog walkers gone by 830 ‘.

An art tutor gassed herself to death in a car at a part of the Derbyshire Dales she cherished, an inquest was told.

She sits waiting for the night. In the small wooden house
nearby for which she has the key
the yellow of the candle, the takeaway pizza.
In the glass of the window she sees her reflection,
a last prayer she leaves behind.

PC Andrew Weston told the Chesterfield inquest that a pipe had been connected from the exhaust to the interior of the car.

The wind crying and complaining
rocks not each tree separately but all together
in a boundless wave of fury. The grass beneath is still.
Cut branches of larch batter on the car roof
placed by her as camouflage.

The body was found laying across the back seat of the vehicle parked a short way into woodland. The engine was running.

This time there will be no leakage,
no escape of air. The windows are carefully sealed with tape.
The fumes contained. This time she will not be found.
The website instructions show her clearly how
to make it work this time.

Oh the calm of the airtight interior,
the lull of a sonata on the radio.
The steel band clenched around her skull is finally loosening
A closed mouth, of lips sealed. No sound just
of breath in through her nostrils.
Vision is the first to go.

She had a history of depression and left a note inside the vehicle.

The pain is like falling in quick sand,
a smothering confinement, of unbearable proportions.
‘I don’t want you to die ‘ I hold her hand
I stroke her skin with my thumb. A gesture I sense she cannot feel.
‘So you want me to suffer then’ she replies
a sharp blade pierces through my chest.
It wedges in my lungs.

Entry was forced into the vehicle but the 44 year old was already dead.

It is a wind of memory
of lilac lavender in June and the jade in a Cornish sea,
of the raspberry red geraniums on her grandmothers doorstep,
of yellow daffodils bobbing in her sisters backyard.
It is a wind of colours
that deepen into purple and blue black
with the fading of light.

I close my eyes, in the darkness
I see a dust, of gold, descending.
I hear the back gate banging on its hinges,
she is no more.
The bare trees bow their heads.
For a moment the wind is still.

The Coroner recorded a verdict of death from self administered carbon monoxide poisoning. Her parents, her sister and her husband were there to hear the verdict.

The wind walks through the hole of her departure.
It makes a howling sound.
It does not blow away the grass.
The spring comes, my muscles move.
And new air finally I breathe.