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Extracts from Helen Oswald's The Dark Skies Society - Waterloo Samplers No. 7


Reaping and Sowing

We are apparently what our grandparents ate.
Their choices from the cold store ordered my genes
so that a grapefruit dissected with the proper tool
and eaten by my grandma on the eve of war
accounts for this bitterness I sometimes feel.

And maybe that extra cow's-lick of butter
churned from grandpa's Irish herd,
scooped up on his initialed silver blade
passed down to my own cutlery drawer,
has marked me too: my slick, emollient tongue.

I have no children of my own
but today I select with care: mussels in their shells,
unscrubbed: hake, the deep sea gleam
still polished in its eye; tomatoes not yet ripe,
their stubborn grip on the vine.

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You know the name
of every bone in my anatomy
and point out, gently,
my supraclavicular fossa.

You lower your head expertly
onto the shipwreck of my ribs,
explain that though my heartbeat
is irregular, there is no danger.

Tender exploration tells you
by what tool and what technique
the obstetrician cut me from my mother
that torpid morning in Tunisia.

I listen patiently, dying to defy
your dictionary. At last,
when we are wordless, I touch
the simpler language of your body.

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Through the Curtain

I imagine you flying east,
a contraband of empty jars
hidden among T-shirts, jeans, bras;
eggs incubating in the interior
beneath rows of reclining seats.

This delicate feast you choose
to carry home. The jars, glass coffins
for your mother's plums, walnuts, gherkins;
the eggs to last her till spring
beacuse, There's nothing once winter sets in.

You were ashamed and proud
to own your illicit cargo. I prayed
your frail, white bird safe through the clouds
to lay its eggs. This soft trade
breaks embargoes, brokers love's peace.


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