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For the next 12 days Literary Hub will help in counting down the days until the seventh-annual Irish Arts Center PoetryFest begins by publishing a poem, as selected by festival co-curator Belinda McKeon.
Demeter, by Fiona Benson
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.
Literary Hub is a proud sponsor of Irish Arts Center PoetryFest.