When I was little I spoke to the stones
in my aunt’s garden: cool, mille-feuille slate—

heavy-bottomed boulders who whispered back
about weight and patience, the folly of water.

I put my hands on the stone and listen to its breathing:
water vapour and rust, cold coming into my palms

as if my hands might find and hold a knowledge
I can’t anymore. I’ve seen photographs of its construction:

faces in half-light, sleeping shacks named for the bible
and Crimean victories, as if naming your roof Jericho

or Balaklava could undo some of the cold
coming out of the floor, from inside the rain.

I want to find the sore places, where its weaknesses are:
under the plastic information point with its history

written in imperial feet. Find what’s underneath
six-inch stud collars, the steel bones

and mathematics needed to hold train tracks,
signal lights, fully-automated levers overhead like

it was something utterly ordinary. I don’t know
what kind of touch is needed for this kind of pain,

if I could reach inside and find names for all the broken ferns
and small sea-creatures, all the surfaces weighted into stone

I might start to understand how to knit together
the broken chimney pots, power lines, half-built estates

and ring-road into something I could hold for a moment
and understand. There is something I keep returning to

and keep missing—I put my hands on the stone and listen
to my own breathing: dribbling cold gravel over cold ground.

Where to Read More

the love i do to you is Whelan’s debut novel-in-sonnets. It tells the love story of ‘He’ and ‘She’. Once lovers and now something else, in this collection the poems roam across the UK, Europe, Japan and South Korea to explore the oldest of lyric subjects – love, desire, friendship and betrayal. Buy here.

“The achievement of Mariah Whelan’s the love i do to you lies not just in its page-turning fusion of lyrical poetics and dramatic narration, but in the moving power of its steady and intimate candour.” – Jane Draycott.

About the Poet

Mariah is the author of the love i do to you (shortlisted for the Melita Hume Prize and winner of the AM Heath Prize) and The Rafters Were Still Burning (forthcoming from Dancing Girl Press in 2020). Mariah is the co-editor of bath magg, a digital magazine of the best new UK and international poetry. Mariah holds degrees from The Queen’s University of Belfast, The University of Oxford and a PhD from the University of Manchester. In August 2020 she was appointed as the Jacqueline Bardsley Poet-in-Residence at Homerton College, The University of Cambridge.