Blood of the soil…


Bone Loss


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.



About Bethany W Pope

Bethany W Pope was named by the Huffington Post as ‘one of the five Expat poets to watch in 2016’. Nicholas Lezard, writing for The Guardian, described her latest collection as 'poetry as salvation'.....'This harrowing collection drawn from a youth spent in an orphanage delights in language as a place of private escape.' Bethany has won many literary awards and published several collections of poetry. Her first novel, Masque, was published by Seren in 2016. Her second novel, Ordinary Lives: The Ballad of John and Mary, was published in 2018. Follow her on Twitter @BethanyWPope

Posted on February 20, 2013, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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