Unseen

Often there 
in your river-surge 
of voice, 
like silt, like debris 
diverging 
through twisted roots; 
I heard them
when in your deep-
throated discourse 
you debated them, 
sometimes with loud 
passion 
or in a mere whisper. 
I saw them 
in your careful scrutiny 
of my face, the sudden 
shifting in your eyes, 
a quick smile hidden, 
not to be shared. 

They were sent to bind 
your heart, your tongue. 
Cleft-handed,
they loosed your brain 
only for seasons. 

But I know them now. 
I do not fear them. 
I am my grand-
mother’s child 
and she was 
a demon-fighting woman. 
I heard her cry out 
on her knees. 
I saw her tarry 
on mission-hall floors, 
lips cracked from fasting, 
until one day a
wing-rush: 
Heaven open, 
hex gone 
and look how 
river flow free 
with a clear shining.

 


from The Stone Gatherer (Peepal Tree, 2009), © Esther Phillips 2009, used by permission of the author and the publisher

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