For those whom we remember and those we will never know.
Spring prayer after winter
These months have been brick cold and here
Threadbare blankets hold ice, soft from our mouths’ sucking
Two were taken out this morning, stiff
As dawn frost and blue white
Their coughing clogged in the night with their breath.
I sit and shiver and wait for spring.
Our shaven heads feel the wind’s cut
The day’s toil seals our skin with sweat
Bones remain brittle within thin rags.
Snow falls in darkness, flakes against shadows
And settles soft like an embrace on spikes of wire.
The chimneys belch fire and ash by day
But we shiver as we watch the distant warming.
I pray through still lips for the end of winter
That spring will wrap me in her shawl a small moment
That grass will dare to poke through mud mashed by so many boots
I pray for a warm cup in clasped hands
For soup to soothe knotted starvation
For sleep without sobbing and jagged cries
And the shape of sentinels black across bunks
I pray that spring will melt the metal in my shivering heart
And the sounds of trains approaching and the choking stench of coiling smoke
And the fear which lurches as we stand bare and broken in lines
Will stop with the start of a new day
Evening at supper
The bushes part and eyes move.
A rabbit in each hand
Nanny gap tooth grins
Full chuckles in her belly.
‘She got two pheasants out-a back,’ says Daddy
‘An’ hotchiwitchi (*) to bake.
She alright for now.’
The pan’s steaming and smoke twists from the logs are lovers ‘twining.
Vapour vanishes in the night studded with stars
Like a blanket full of light holes but warm.
The bushes come together and eyes become metal barrels.
The smell of baking clay and sweet juices fizzing hot,
Sister at the pump washing splashing light against iron shadows,
Laughter fiddles music in the air,
Children chase then sit chewing quiet.
Nanny sucks on bread sops in gravy.
The old ways are diamonds in her fingertips
Secrets simmer in her eyes.
Smoke dies down to sleep in the starlight
Dogs settle to gnaw on bones.
Silence sits soft for a moment. Then
Gunfire spatters in the air and bodies roll red.
The men come out and kick the huddled dead
Take what they can find and leave.
(*) Hotchiwitchi= hedgehog