She had a death in me

By Joan Houlihan Joan Houlihan
She had a death in me, knees drawn up   
and my bowl and cloth rinsed through with her.   
As morning takes night, field closes the hare,   
and ay would burrow into her.   

Over the altar, catalpas rattle,   
shadow and bother the branch.   
Is this her white? Dress me.   
Her rain? Wash me with that.   
Her bowl? Feed me empty.   
Her colding? Ay am forgot.   

Then mask me the g’wen, hers skin   
being mine, and body that pools   
in the brine of her, rivers the silt and stone of her   
wrapt in the warm of hers fell.   
She were the watcher and tender of pyres   
when the wet grass shined with quiet   
and ay lean to the mouth hole: ay, mother.

FOOTNOTES: The Us is a formally fractured poetic sequence spoken by a chronically nomadic people. A member of the group (Ay) dramatizes the coming to self-consciousness of an individual in the group.—JH

Source: Poetry (December 2008).

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Poet Joan Houlihan

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Mythology & Folklore