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Tuesday Poem: Two Spells for Sleeping by Michael Donaghy

Eight white stones
in a moonlit garden,
to carry her safe
across the bracken
on a gravel path
like a silvery ribbon
seven eels in the urge of water
a necklace in rhyme
to help her remember
a river to carry her
unheard laughter
to light about her
weary mirror
six candles for a king's daughter
five sighs for a drooping head
a prayer to be whispered
a book to be read
four ghosts to gentle her bed
three owls in the dusk falling
what is that name you hear them calling?
In the soft dark welling,
two tales to be telling,
one spell for sleeping,
one for kissing,
for leaving.

© The Estate of Michael Donaghy 2005
From 'Safest', published by Picador, London 2005

This is the last poem in Michael Donaghy's final collection, published posthumously.  I love its simplicity, the feeling of nursery rhyme or folk tale - the mysterious princess gazing in her 'weary mirror' - the four ghosts that 'gentle her bed' and that nocturnal prognosticator, the owl who cries 'Who?&…

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