End of Year and other poems

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    End of Year and other poems

    Author – Anne McMaster

    End of Year

    From here, you can see the fabric of the year

    scuffed raw and worn thin

    around a grey horizon’s fine and unforgiving rim.

    Today the sun is light and empty; nothing more.

    Sudden gusts of desolate, bitter wind

    busy themselves along the weakening edges of the moment

    delving in – seeking to loosen – then to pry

    all that holds them from the remnants of the day.

    The desiccated husks of time

    are borne up – gossamer-thin, translucent –

    rising loose in tattered fragments

    towards an abandoned sky.

    .

    Corncrake

    No living bird, this,

    but the shadowed fragment of a slate-like song

    caught deep within a slight, half-span of honeyed wood.

    One side carved in rolling curves, red hieroglyphs marking their ebb and flow –

    the other, a broad straight edge,

    pressed smoothly warm into my father’s palm.

    Stepping through my soft-edged memory, now, he moves –

    bright-eyed, muscled, smiling, round the corner of the byre –

    a jagged memory of that small, lost bird

    borne carefully in his large, cupped hands

    as he carries his gopen-ful of sound.

    He touches the wood gently with a shining metal arc

    bright and cool as a sickle-sharp winter moon

    And the rasping cry of a corncrake leaps between his fingers, sharpening our air.

    Can you hear it? His eyes meet mine and his smile is sweet. Can you hear it?

    This rough call echoed once around the fields

    as men, long-ago, scythed grass then forked the hay;

    as horses, straining with each fragrant load

    hauled sweet summer harvest to the shed

    as hedges rippled slowly in a lush kaleidoscope of green

    and a lonely dog barked in the yard.

    I hold this slip of wood and think of fields cropped warm and stubble-bare;

    tilly lamps hissing in a clean, cool room

    as men greet the woman of the house and lay their caps aside,

    chairs pulled in to a table heavy with food and bread and tea.

    Small children – my father and his sister – quiet as shadows as voices flow

    a bisom and a patient cat standing silent at the door;

    behind the house, the flint-like echo of a corncrake in the empty field.

    Then my father’s smile, so soft and clear in his aged, sun-browned face

    as he gently offers the singing wood for me to try

    to give the corncrake voice again.

    Can you hear it?

    .

    A Question of Grief

    How is it that I carry grief so well, you want to know?

    Do I draw it up, like water,

    fine drops spilling loose before me in careful, holy palms?

    Or do I clutch, perhaps, at something yet unformed;

    pull it close in to my hollow chest

    where grief beats out a slow low echo

    from a stone-weary heart?

    Do I heft it, in bulk, across my shoulder

    letting it bow me low with steps that drive me down?

    Or do I carry it now in some more nebulous form –

    a thin, fine layer cracked just beneath the skin?

    Pain refracted within me,

    muscle-deep, to my very core?

    .

    River Song

    Ice had formed when they found her.

    No thickened, opaque crust

    but a delicate rime along the river’s edge.

    Moving gently in the bitter water

    tendrils of long dark hair marked the paleness from her skin

    and stone shadows filled her cheeks with shade.

    “Come with me,” she seemed to sing to those who found her, lonely, there.

    “The biting water is nothing to the coldness of the world.”

    .

    This Page

    No boundaries mark this open page.

    Yet on the broad-horizoned land,

    fields, mended hedges, broken walls

    mark exactly where I may not go.

    A page – this page – is open to the sky.

    Times past, on snowy winter days

    three small girls

    slid, shrieking, down a frosted hill.

    Boundaries were a whispered dare

    a looming thrill.

    Only a final curve – a tipping point

    moments before disaster –

    drove us deep into the snow

    not pinioned on leafless briars

    behind the cold barbed wire.

    We raced through crop-filled summer fields

    picked raspberries and blackberries,

    sweetening our lips and nights

    tasting summer and autumn on our tongue.

    Later we found ourselves

    drawn to the edge of things

    moving towards the boundaries of the day.

    Keep the book. Open the page.

    This page – this page – is open to the sky.

    .

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