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Image by Annie Spratt


the madrigal, volume iii.v

To My Former Self

by ross thompson

It started with an unlit fire. Your folks
refused to fill the hearth with coal for fear
of choking the room with the smell of smoke.

Out-of-date papers lined the grate. The chore
of cleaning up kept the tinderbox clear
of matches and kindling, the corner store

well stocked with briquettes, the ash pan pristine
as the day it was bought. This thought replayed
in your psyche and became a routine:

those trains not taken and paths undeflowered,
taffeta-wrapped gift hampers that remained
undevoured until the food spoiled and soured.

Too cowardly to crack a spine or tread
on unbroken snow, the contents of rooms
were kept unknown, tender words left unsaid

to prevent rejection. You lay supine
in bed, no intent of braving the gloom,
splitting the dark and committing a sin

of which you would later have to repent.
You never sampled half of the menu.
You were too faltering, too hesitant

to taste those flavours for which you always yearned.
Your future was an unentered venue,
the fire unlit and your fingers unburned.

Ross Thompson is a writer from Bangor, Northern Ireland. His debut poetry collection Threading The Light is published by Dedalus Press. His work has appeared on television and radio, and in a wide range of publications. Most recently, he wrote and curated A Silent War, a collaborative audio response to the COVID-19 pandemic that has been adapted into a series of archival and educational films. He is currently preparing a second full-length book of poems. 

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