©2010 Jennifer A. McGowan
- An open field. Golden, fretted
with intermittent rows of red, purple.
She lies side pressed into the earth
to feel it grow and breathe. The wind
begins to blow, disturbing the heat haze
and riffling her still thoughts. Now
the rustle of the stalks whispers percussion
to the cicadas' heavy drone. They memorialise
their brief lives in these sounds of summer
after seventeen dark years below ground.
- As many women have lain here, she thinks,
as beats of heart in a country minute,
relishing the racket, quiet in comparison
to rushing dogs and children, the yowl
of the cat as it's stepped on, again. The farm-house
is just out of sight, but in her mind's eye
she sees it rising from its stone foundation,
square, two-storey, painted once each generation
whether it needs it or not. The yard,
tough grass and dirt, trodden by decades
of hooves, feet and tractors. The barn, ridge
sagging. That'll need to be fixed
before first freeze. Swifts fly in and out
of the hayloft at dusk; beneath, the heavy
uneasiness of the animals fades to placidity.
All that waits, and has done
since the roof-raising parties laughed and swore
two hundred years ago, or more. She rolls
onto her back and squints. Counts clouds.
Seeks, perhaps, the sky's clarity. Startled by
the harsh, cracked call of a crow or jay,
she takes wing. Flies free as breath
into unwonted heights, some half-forgotten song
from her childhood bursting from her lips.
Here there is no weight but memory.
As long as she eludes herself, she is wholly one,
in the accumulated time of centuries.
- A dog-fox
bends his way through the grass
and finds an unlikely log. He sniffs,
catching every scent: the breeze,
crushed flowers, warmed earth.
She smells of muguets and cold cream.
He nudges her spilled hair
to see if it's edible, takes
the strap of her shoe
between his teeth.
When she awakes
he's an arm's-length away.
Both blink. A heartbeat,
maybe two, and he kicks up his heels,
vanishes without looking back.
She sits, and plaits her once-dark hair,
stands and stretches.
Her sandal is useless. Barefoot,
light of heart, she walks back.
The flat blue sky stretches above
like a prayer.