After donating blood

I ignore the caution against strenuous exercise,
walk the mountain in afternoon heat.
This, then, is the face I will one wear one day,
I think, dismayed, casting about at my feet
for missing breath.

There comes a memory—fifteen years ago,
running up this mountain in the heat,
hauling in air easy as laughing,
faster than my dog, who had to stop
to speak to bushes, but who is now long dead,
of age, and waning interest.

Then a memory—twenty-five years, at least,
climbing this mountain in the heat,
bearing small children too tired to climb.
Yet you and I would talk in normal voices
about our days, about coming here always,
normal voices, our original faces, even in those steepest places,
where the steps climb—
as the children, fretful by now, would cry—
almost to the sky.

Penelope Layland


Penelope Layland’s most recent book is Nigh (Recent Work Press 2020). Her 2018 book, Things I’ve thought to tell you since I saw you last (Recent Work Press 2018) was shortlisted for the Kenneth Slessor Prize and the ACT Book of the Year and won an ACT Publishing and Writing Award.

© 2021