The Swords by Abigail Parry

Nine shafts in steely fluency, between 
the headboard and the wall
grey-blue
             like ice or gunships    brute and serious
                                       a face between cupped hands
and all the saints
polite as china mice up on the shelf.
                                                                      Eight 
                                     silver wicket gates
                            the minor byways
that span and fret the dark        a painted heart
              ringed round with thorns
              eight hard-pressed fingers groping up to heaven.
                                                                       Seven
                                        shining hells, assorted demi-hells    his eyes
                                        are humbler than they used to be.
                                        Seven
keys to the too-tall maze blue leaves like folded razorblades you, trapped inside
or opening the door, not knowing me that hissing water lily, blue and blue and liquid orange round its ring.
Six bubbles, in a string. Now count them – sugar
necklace, stream or abacus a line of silver, running from your mouth up to the ceiling that’s how you know which way to swim
that’s how you know which way is up
Now count them, count again. Now swim –
Five fins on the propeller or any large machine that scythes or pumps or stirs the water. Four warrior angels, crumpled round their swords. Three
twins to my unhinged half gone missing from the mirror.
Two black holes where the eyes should be.
One aircrewman, who lives in the museum
his ’chute all rucked and pooled. Stubbed nose of the submarine
Old Man Pike, who sculls the dark
and one blunt thought, its lead balloon: full stop where the air runs out.