THREE POEMS ON THE LIFE OF SAINT ÆTHELRYTH

 

moving means you are still alive

I stood with my feet bare
in the heart of spring in the wood
in the belly of the wood I stood
and listened: skylark   woodcock
little wren and pigeon     I reached
up my arms and drew them down
down until each one a diamond of sound
and the song mingled until panes lined
up in the sky     the light fell in patches
on the young green ferns
so I walked in it and yet they
did not crush: this was my first miracle
the gold vein the spider made winked
This I swallowed and when I sang
the sleeping reached their warm hands
through my dreams and when they grasped
something real I pulled them to me

 

 

 

my first husband died

the main way to love is to resist
when he died he gave me the only land I ever wanted

doing nothing with your body: what could matter more

each time he moved towards me I dropped a veil
I turned

I was young when he died: I didn’t know what I wanted
conversation was impossible

when I was hungry I clasped my hand
tightly round a spray of elderflower
and inhaled the scent from my palm

I was known for not eating

once I’d ground poppyseeds
between my molars in sleep
I didn’t need it anymore

 

 

 

when I left my second husband

I did not know where I was going
lost acres where my mind froze
the sun in my eyes while I drove
for miles over sun-buckled roads
not registering the fenland settlements

the haystacks looked like shelter
I couldn’t stop     all I know is I drove north

when we first met     he was a boy really
it wasn’t the case that as he grew
he wanted me
when he knew he couldn’t have me
he wanted me
the more I tried to leave the greater his desire

it wasn’t so much that I didn’t want him
as I had somewhere else to be
in my own flesh
I wouldn’t say it felt good to leave
but I was myself in my own body

what if I had stayed? I’d have been
another mere wife and mother

I know that by holding my body back
in life I would be free
in death I would be a dwelling
I kept it for myself

I walked alone for miles
back to the only thing I
wanted for my own     I
never saw a man     I

never saw god     but god saw me

 





 

[Kate Caoimhe Arthur was born in Co. Down and has recently returned there after several years in the Cambridgeshire Fens. In 2017 she was the Fenland Poet Laureate.  In 2018 she was selected for the Poetry Ireland Introductions series.  She has been published in The Fenland Reed, The Tangerine, abridged, and Best British and Irish Poetry 2018. She works in collaboration with the fine-art printmaker Iona Howard.]

Copyright © 2021 by Kate Caoimhe Arthur, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of Copyright law. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.