Up in shorn Drake’s Meadow the hay bales shine.
They’re sheathed in plastic tubing and the plastic
is slack at each end then tight round the bale
like a film. My daughter is compelled –
she must fit her arms round each bale, or pull
at their silver tails and I cannot draw her home.
I head down the path hoping she’ll come
but when I look back she’s gone and my own voice
snags at her name like barbed wire on skin.
When I see her again she’s halfway down the field
emerging from behind another bale
as if they were portals or wormholes to pass her
through this sun-bleached meadow – impossible –
her mouth is bruised with blackberry juice
and she keeps disappearing, the way a cormorant
will dive, then reappear a mile upriver,
disappearing, as if into hell through the shadow
of a hay bale – Demeter will be screaming soon,
cutting her wrists with broken glass,
rubbing in dirt, turning the world to darkness and ice –
she misses her daughter so much (pathological) –
black ice on the school run, shuddering cars,
bodies through glass – she can’t bear it and I
can’t stand it – not that small smashed body on the road
nor the germs – septicaemia, meningitis –
her small blotched body in my arms –
nor the men preparing underground rooms –
bare mattress and a bucket, concealed stairs –
what mother could find you there,
digging up the pavement with her nails –
I can’t bear it and I cannot pray enough
to spare it, I’ll pray to any listening god
to keep her safe from harm, I go and pick
my daughter up and carry her protesting home.
Photograph by Chris Wild.