poem20 Aug 2018 08:24 am


I.

Before sunrise I tie rags around my ankles.

Blades of grass lick my legs as I fatten
with dew. Your fairy throat can’t swallow
the other kinds of water. Your lips soften
dough-like butterflies. I wring the

tatters of my homespun dress.
Your paralysis breaks, your hands
two dragonflies — they waver — your wings
cobwebs, encrusted in a woodland case of sores.

I bathe you, comb you, dress you
mimic your motions with a decade-old delay.
Raising children must be like
sowing yourselves in the ground.

II.

Before sunrise I tie rags around my ankles.

Blades of grass lick my legs as I fatten
with dew, as my calves grow slower
and slower, as I drag my feet
through dirt. Once I found your stolen shawl

Buttery-white, hidden by father so
you would not leave us. You said you didn’t want it
and smiled. Your teeth started falling
one by one. You crushed them into sugar

— for me. Your hair started thinning
braid after braid. You turned it into flour
— for me. Your eyes rolled on the ground —
you made them into soup — for me, for me.

If you could cut yourself in pieces and
bake them in the oven — one arm pie, one leg roll —
you would, you would — for me. Because
fairy mothers think their

children ought to devour them.

III.

Before sunrise I tie rags around my ankles.

Blades of grass lick my legs, as I fatten
with dew, as my calves grow slower
and slower, as I drag my feet
through dirt, as I listen to the rust

of tatters, of my homespun dress
of the rags around my ankles, heavy
with dew — for you, for you. Mother,
you always tasted bitter. The songs

you didn’t sing, the flights
you didn’t fly. This is my dowry
and this
is my inheritance.

IV.

Before sunrise I tie rags around my ankles
— I breathe, I breathe —
blades of grass lick my legs
my rugs, my chains, as I fatten

with dew, as my calves grow slower
and slower, as I drag my feet
through dirt
and walk
through meadows
and my lips crave

for morning dew.

Illustration for ” Drottningens halsband ” (The queens necklace) by Anna Wahlenberg in “Bland tomtar och troll” (Among gnomes and trolls), 1914.
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