Gillian Barton

My daughter beside me grabs my hand. Her warm body I body.
His, cold hard body – like mine small, dark, hazel eyed, we body
Swallows in the eaves dart in
flit off
I bring them to my feet, the flagstone floor, solid present
Two black crows called Doves open the coffin window open
My brother’s yellow face
My daughter and I body his dead body
From a Kalahari camping trip his karross under the cold stars the high desert
his bed
warm not dead
____________________________________________

We candle him in whispers. The women: mother, sister, old wife, wife to be, daughter, niece. The women who should chanting carry him through into the life of after life. We who should have washed him, uncurled his hands, covered with a clean linen cloth his legs, his feet, his body, arranged his genitals like fruit in a bowl, put pennies on his eyes, candled him out.

We who should have wreathed him around with stories of his life
eaten venison, drunken the good red wine
We stood
sat waxen
with the frozen few
faintly sang
faintly
the litany

I unwreathe the Gordian knot called our childhood and spin
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~out~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~the threads a fine red twine ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My heart flip-flops about in its cage his coffin
the earth of water, a shimmering unhinges in the cool chapel

Flags flutter and flutter away, water the air with colour.
Prayer rises unbidden in the marshy spaces after the funeral.
I thirst.
Paint a large cross on black paper.

Wet on wet runs away, drifts
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~off~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

______________________________________________

I seem to be standing here
Under the branches
In the wind
In water In water
without water
In a desert. In the wind.

… … … … Grains in my mouth … … … …

I say his name.
Tell it to the dogs.
______________________________________________

You were island country
pebble rolled around the tides
your hand grain of it’s corn knows at last the moment
But most
you stand
at a door in the centrehouse
with no break for the earth.
You speak silence in murder
Trees unloose this death, even its bone
Birds rest the world
After a wave, your pebble
life
breath
all soul
own heaven
________________________________________

To come to this country speak another language make up bloodstories of defeat and dust
To come to this country sing in sorrow the long lines of betrayal and silence
Learn to avert your eyes and speak of other things before the death of the brother
I cannot myself be a question. I cannot come to this country
and not be broken-hearted
I cannot be exiled to the far reaches of my skin
I am not from this country
I cannot myself be a question
_________________________________________

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