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  • The Conquest
  • Claire Harris

i came squalling into the world                        (paying no attention                                          as usual

to the welter of blood            and muck                        (until it was too late

i was born of love they said        by the time i thoughtto ask              too late        a sort of anthem              i sing as one day the earth will                              sing methen

i who held                                  in dawn light              your head in my hands              felt your lashes flicker gainst                              my lips

              seized your body named every hill              every cleft & valley my tongue                                your flag

once            sparrows squabbling i                        in the blaze from your eyes                                                smiled sure

your joy            a wind storming among the roses                        bends them to its pleasure                        their various scent rich            faint                                    delicatedrifts around us

climbing            in pale northern noon the hill [End Page 1041]                         towards the house you run the last steps                                    scale the verandah

                        where i wait for you dressed                                                in water

now                        in the evening                        of this perfectly still day                                            i listenalone

                        our child silent in the grass

this thorn tree                        a gift you said                        scent of sun of Africa stick grey                        its small leaves unfurl into bloom

                        even in that small room  dwarfedi have learnt

                        once    i dreamt you a tenant                                                of the heart                                thinking you would buy                                        would need to

                                    but you did not

                                  too warm in winter                                and when it stormed                                    windows rattled                        besides the new one  cheaper

what could I say?

                                    the deciding factorso i smiled                                                grace                                            is allyou weren't surprisedi sent you white carnations threaded with black silk                                        a gesture toward                                    still no wild surmise

                        i am a poet                                    what is a poem                        if not a spell [End Page 1042]

                        i bathed in sweet sage                                i oiled with cocoa butter                    on a tin tray lit mass candles                        white wax then red & black                i sprinkled grave dust on pillows holy water                                    and                                    low                                slow prayed                                    the                                    bed

my note said                                today this city on the bow                                  (yesterday's fall of snow                                      morning 's hoar frost                        glitters we are bathed in light                                    come to dinner                        you know how sweet my hand                        and I've your own red decanted

                                    i promise this

i will not bore you with my love                        adult i know how hard it is                                for the one who is loved                            when his own heart does not cry

                                like a dove in the throat                            when a kiss no longer sings

                            life's like love's a gamble


you did            and as i knew you would you took the bed                        afterwards you slept

and i sang

                        now in this silence the bluffs                            hasten to close around us        now from memorial poplars ghosts issue    like smoke towards the grey bowl of evening                now below them the dying unaware                        snake metal coffins towards [End Page 1043]                     their graves their silent faces                worn out and stretched in laughter                the shimmer of lamps curving under            the scent of this moment pale hollow                                    now muffled bells            shatter golden domes shower the world        brick steel laminates concrete chips shards            &#16brilliant glass now our windows            smiling into the tumult spill sharp rain                                    rain hushed along the streets  and the bow boils quiet into threatening water                leaps to meet a moon that drifts                            in its own scar writhes                                    in its cold flame            now                      you will returnreturn            and i will gather youmy love                      wrap you withthe wind creeping aboutyour limbs

the crows writing onyour tongue

the crumbling earth yougrope upon

the rain scratching atwindow panes

the dark dream flutteringfrom seams

the sheet winding aroundyour sleep

the binding root thatloops and

anchors youwhere i am [End Page 1044]



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