Blood of the soil…
Lifting the old lady over the horse-style,
the large, steam-breathed Clydesdale warmed my hair
with nut-scented droplets that had circulated through lungs,
organs, the courses of his blood.
The woman looked large, tyre-like rounds
visible beneath her blue anorak.
Her trail-boots danced against frost-slicked bars
without gripping. I feared the hooves.
My great-grandmother suffered concussion at ninety
doing something much like this- mounting a gate
with no one to help her, hoisting the bucket
of fresh cream for the butter.
I come from a hard breed.
Decades of dairy had gone to her head,
and thank God, the steel shoe had only grazed her.
At her age she could bear another dent.
Now, the Norman church was beckoning.
My husband’s grandfather had not been buried yet,
but the stones called out for praying, for preparing the earth.
A small open cave, perfectly formed
for ill made music, human voices singing.
Frost mapped the autumnal offerings, first harvest
of Wiltshire preserved, made solid on the altar.
Leeks, apples, cheese.
Life is mythology. Saints lives and fairy tales agree
that even on the path seeking something important,
under pressure of time, in the fear of getting dirty
or made somehow unclean, priority goes
to assisting the elderly. There are
compensating blessings, even unseen.
My fingers sank into the fat of this old lady.
She had the loose texture of still-warm meringue,
as though there were nothing solid in her
but light white summer-clouds, sunlight
held into trousers by the tight weave of cloth.
I lifted her easily, offering her body,
still living, bone-free and numinous,
to the hoar frosted soil.
Bone Loss II
It seeped out, painless, in the hot bath.
The razor slipped and there it was; alive
in the hair-clotted water, a cloud of myself.
I thought of what had gone into it.
Meat, primarily, consumed by me
and completely digested. Within those rusting cells,
the bones of older forms.
My mother’s Nordic mitochondria-
no longer independent- bonded
to a chain whose links dangle charm-portraits
of everyone I’ve been.
So many branched streams
feeding the sea of myself,
unwinding again in this body-heat water.
My thoughts go back years to a circle of graves
my third cousin showed me,
petals round a core that sprung from his land
in the centre of the pasture he kept
to feed his horses.
Five graves in the centre, five brothers
laid out in lines with fading stone markers
surrounded by fence my cousin kept up
like his father before him, a whole chain
going back to the ancestor son
who inherited this land.
I sprung from the veins of one of the others.
Outside of the fence, unmarked mounds
sprung petal-like, radial, the humps of the mothers.
Dark skinned, though they thought themselves Christian.
No place for them in consecrated ground.
No names either, no matter how faded.
They gave them up when they wedded those men.
My cousin told me that tribal lawyers
had petitioned to reclaim what was left of them.
His lawyers, better paid, won.
He is largely a good man, part blind like all of us.
I think that he wanted to know some of his mother,
the core of her that remains to us, undigested,
though he couldn’t have said this.
I would have torn down the fence,
unearthed those fragments, male and female both,
wed and mingled them there in the centre
beneath a mound like a pomegranate.
I would have spilled blood on them,
the steam of my breathing.
It would be interesting to note
what springs from the seeds in that earth.