Arches & Endings

Arches & Endings by Siân Norris | A.i.R Poems

As part of her residency, Siân Norris presents two poems that she has written, Arches & Endings. Throughout 2017 these artists, including Siân Norris will take a leading creative role in what Wales Arts Review publishes, centring their skills on a challenging project over the course of a month. We were inundated with applications, receiving hundreds of emails about the positions, and it was no easy task whittling down all that talent to this final eleven. Our team of six editors debated long into the night, and in the end, we decided on a collection of people who we most want to work with, and whose work excites us. We think you will be excited by them too. 

Arches & Endings by Siân Norris | A.i.R Poems


Arches & Endings
Arches & Endings | Two Poems by Siân Norris


 But what’s there,

they asked.

A famous archway.

Built-in 200 ACE or 200 AD —

depending on your preference.


Perhaps it made sense,

once. This setting.

But it’s confusing now

to find an archway at the port’s edge —

sun-bleached stone white

against the sweating tarmac.


Did it once stand alone?

Stark; blue framed in its frown.

Or did it stand surrounded

by an industrial bustle less mechanical

than the cranes that now guard:

overgrown children’s toys

in primary colours.



You take my hand,

lead me under the archway.

We stand

with the light reflecting on our surfaces;

with the sun’s heat in your palm;

with the truth

that in 1816 years

I came to be alive in this moment —

the same time as you.


With the reason why

my life didn’t begin

when centurions marched through

the arch.

Or end when canon fire blasted from

the seawall.


All the years

contained in this space.

What an improbability

that we should come to stand




As an Italian man tries to tell us

we’re in the wrong place.


Arches & Endings by Siân Norris | A.i.R Poems
Arches & Endings by Siân Norris | A.i.R Poems

When you told me:


“You’re no good at endings,”

and I cried.

My face pressed up against the bobbled grey sheets

of another borrowed bed.

The city outside —

with its heaving multitudes —

doesn’t exist.

But we can’t contain our whole existence

in this:

a borrowed room.


I’m no good at endings.

And so I don’t know how to end this;

our holiday.

I leave it to you

to leave me instead.

I stand,

naked, framed by the door.

You, half

nude descending a staircase.


Is it because I’m no good at endings

that I cry when the plane takes off?

The air stretching vertical between me

and the place that still holds you.

Alarming the correct couple sat beside me

as they reflect on their holiday photos,

first on one lit screen,

and then on another.

The sunflowers that had bobbed in welcome,

only visible from arrivals.


I go to funerals on my own.

I wake, panting, from a nightmare.

These moments when I wonder if it’s worth not being


If it’s worth having someone

to stand, tear-wet hand-clasped with,

at funerals.

Someone to smooth your hair when a ghost lifts you up —

unexpectedly —

in sleep.


I get drunk under a blurry sky.

I flirt with a Frenchman,

and then I flirt with

another Frenchman.

He pokes my stomach.

My mouth a moue.


It all seems such a waste of time

when the end result is not



There must be a reason for me to stand:

naked, framed by door,

my body a strobe in black.

A white flag in the dawn dark.

Watching your back move away from me


Like I watch the towns escape one by one behind me

on the train home,


like I watch the Alps shrink beneath me,

my nose pressed against a postage stamp of white light,

until they are reduced to

papier-mâché proportions.

The heel of my hand is wet with

wiped-away tears.

The couple beside me say:

“It’s so much easier to go on holiday now the kids are grown.”

This contribution by Siân Norris is part of the Artists in Residence series.