By Adele Rickerby
No wider than
a handspan - between my hand and dust she sleeps, drowns in. Foreign, red as my wash-house hands, my welts and sins. Her hair. No gentle rain but scouring sky to shake out our souls, No higher than my knee, her slip - a billow stained. flying salt spray, interminable ocean. Adrift, a pull of restless tides. Clotted eyes, catarrh cough. Mouth gapes with - Hulk and swell, and brood between this land and - no cries, but no nothing neither, no Mam, Mam, no I want Mam. No wickedness of his, but wickedness of mine, rootle between his red-haired, Scratching in dirt, arms, ribs like, breath - a feather. (a constable's slapping) thighs, a pressing down in dust. and all that grows between and from is this sigh and slip, coiled fist babe. No time to sit, bend to milk-soak any - No bed, no cradle, no baby cries. Just open eyes to watch me no warmth. I chased her like a mangy dog, a cur. walk away, the ever growing space, stunted silence. I shooed and hit and like a cur she crept. And when I turned Don't want her, I said. Don't want you. crept back, my shadow in the dirt behind. Held her breath, No Mam, no Mam, no I want Mam. Just following behind, at once was still and soft. Breath of my country, a duckling fluff to blow away, farther than the country left green and wet, so far away my dreams of green had left. No patience with her rattling cough. No sleep no peace, Yet not so far, not so wide as space stretched cold and stiff and my hand reaching out just once to the space where she had been.