Read time: 3 mins

‘Return’ and ‘Silent’

by Elizabeth Gibson
29 October 2020



I don’t know how we go on, some nights, how I live –

I get antsy and want to walk to the ends of the earth

to save trees and turtles, wear the same jeans and shirt,

go barefoot and vegan: it all seems easy pared down

to a sky of doom and all of this life ending and aching.


There is a romance in fighting, a purity in resistance,

a loss that for once feels right and good and survivable,

as your gold rings and silver bangles slip off and away.

Just me and the wonderful, wise woman you will be,

our life given to service, nothing left over when we go.


And yet the city is always dark and cold and too fast

and you never come, or else you don’t stay long enough

for me to ask the question, or maybe I am just too weak.

I keep buying, books and chocolates and shower gels,

keep using my heater to desperately warm up my bed.


I earnt my money. This is the best time of your life,

I was told by an ex of sorts, when you finish studying.

I had a honeymoon winter when I felt it, I really did,

would spend my evenings alone in Italian restaurants,

trying every dessert, thinking: surely this is happiness.


Then the little rebel in me who grew up with folk music

and a mother who spent her time on the campaign trail,

who wanted to save every fly and spider and little bird,

she tasted something in the air and she woke, stretched,

felt truth welcome her back and caress her like a lover.






“Unlike other big cats, snow leopards cannot roar.” – WWF website


I made you silent, leopard, and I wonder whether to regret it.

Yet when you run grey in grey, silver in silver, silence into

silence, I wonder whether all I made should have been mute.

*To roar does not occur until you suggest it. I have no need*


I made them speaking, shouting: negotiating hunts, industry.

Their capacity for language soon gave way to noise, melting

away your quiet land, pulling the snow from under your feet.

*The sounds of the mountains are sufficient. Listen, function*


You do not talk, my leopard – does that mean you do not feel?

Physically you can writhe as your skin is stripped but mentally

do you hurt? Do you think, articulate to yourself anger, grief?

*I do not know. I know heat, cold, hunger, exhaustion. Need*


If all you do comes from instinct, pure survival your compass,

is that sweeter, better? Perhaps I should have made them like

that: no dreams or desire, laziness or love, greed or gratitude.

*They climb here. They huddle in pairs, display dependency*


Maybe then this earth ball would not be burning and crumbling

into itself, decaying, as their passion turns them to destruction.

Maybe they could live quietly, doing the necessary to continue.

*Some chase us, others just observe the view, eyes snowing*


But as you hurtle across the silver, impatient to get back, drop

down, hold out your rabbit offering to smaller versions of you,

I think maybe you do feel – that silently, harmlessly, you love.

*Their life outweighs mine. I do not know what that is called*

About the Author

Elizabeth Gibson

Elizabeth Gibson is a poet based in Manchester, UK, whose work often discusses the city, nature, sexuality, body image and changes in identity. Having graduated from the University of Manchester with an Integrated Professional Masters in Languages, Elizabeth has spent time living in France, Spain and China. She has won a Northern Writers’ Award and has been shortlisted for The Poetry Business’ New […]