Soak cloths in the sink and scrub down the steps,
avoiding mouth and skin. Keep it out of reach
under a child-proof lid. Twist, push, lift and share.
Use it wisely, making the semi-circle glow
in the cement, a force-field, a cordon sanitaire,
because all that elbow grease is an open invitation
to those who will call at the front door
like Christmas morning, a small shuffling queue
to pay respects with greetings and gifts;
those from blurred photographs and holding biblical
names, but only crossing the threshold,
yes, like the undead when you ask them in, pure
and holy and so taking easily to hypocrisy,
blame and recrimination; family you can’t remember,
and those you never want to see again,
come to wipe the slate clean as you feel your neck,
your flesh, go cold, tingling as if under
the nicked and bleached edge of a guillotine.
Howard Wright lectures at the Belfast School of Art, Ulster University. He is twice winner of The Frogmore Prize. He was awarded second prize in 2018’s Ver Poets Open and Commended in the McLellan Prize. Poems have since been published in Blackbox Manifold, Poetry Ireland, and Cyphers. Other poems are due to appear in Stand and The North.