by davidbatho

We were told that in the spring
a doe had left her fawn
to graze on the early stalks
as she wandered further away.
She raised her head in time
to watch a boar approach her child,
lift it on its tusks
and throw it in the air.

I think of her eyes
on the boar as it cleaned its jaw
on the low shoots beside
her child.

Behind that field some time before
I sat in the main house
where your father had once slept
as the wall went up in flames;
where his mother fell to her knees
at a blow on the back from a spade;
where the French had left a piece
of aristocracy on the run;
where you would later work outside,
stretching out the mainsail
to dry in the sun.

I found myself displaced
with your brother and his sports,
or wandering to the parlour
where the present, held back decades,
was undone.

I don’t remember you well.
I don’t know where you were.
I was there.
I kept your brother company.

You were with your grandmother,
perhaps,
growing into her past,
or in the jeep with your father,
on the forest roads
where Siberia had rolled through him
as a boy.

Or lost in the fog with your Farfar
trawling the sea for crab,
adrift, for once,
with no sense for the shore.

Somewhere, while I sat.

We were differently drawn in
by your father’s winter tales,
of the dead man in the car
who’d vanished in the mirror;
or the spirit in the woods
who’d pointed to his game;
or the woman of the lynx,
quietly acknowledged
as we passed her empty bench.

Separately we took inside
each proof of something
both sides of the snow.

It spread to me, slowing
everything to a standstill
from the churchyard that had buried
your lost generations.

I have a photo of your brother.
I stopped him in the kitchen.
His pupils are pulled wide.
He is there
like you and your father.

That is what I thought,
absently,
later on,
having never asked.

I also have a photo
of a hut you hadn’t seen,
skewed by winds that always
blew the same way,
bent as a sheltering tree line
that stills the air.

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