Degas’ The Tub
for Vicki Feaver
It’s the way she lies abandoned,
Jezebel, to her liquid bronze bath; hair
dripping over the lip of the tub,
as if recovering from a marathon
or from giving birth.
Like the post-natal bath I had
in the shock-white hospital –
blood streaking the water,
even the gleaming metal taps.
Her slim body bathes in the shallow
pool – sponge in hand resting against
the edge; hips wide, breasts lolling,
a forearm reaching out
seemingly unconnected to her shoulder.
He has made a map out of her skin –
carved the shapes of countries into her
like scar tissue on the split bark of a tree.
Every time I give birth it’s as if my body
is snapped in two, stitched back together
and handed a bundle, another mouth to satisfy.
But she has no such cares;
lost in the waves of her hair,
eyes shut as she absentmindedly holds
her foot. One leg raised, bent across the other,
the straight of her shin following the line
of her outstretched arm, meeting
together in the crux of a triangle.
You simply cannot imagine
that one day soon the dogs
will have her. Leaving only skull,
hand-bone and foot.
September is Not the Birth of Things
September is a stripped trunk of bay laurel,
a valley of rhubarb wands, sky
reflecting the shale rocks
with layered tongues –
quartz clouds breaking through slate.
September is a haul of brambles
rotting on a claw
of branches, pulp of bracken fronds
browning at the edges,
crimson wings of fuchsia –
dripping Chinese lanterns.
September is not the birth of things
though it was the month
she was born in.
when evergreens become
the muscle of the wind’s song.
The month they turn
into a pack of howling dogs –
birth pangs of winter
in the chill dawn.
That September I huddled
in my room – for three long weeks
not another soul came near.
My heart leapt into my mouth
when she slipped out
quiet as a doll.
Then her call rang through me –
in the grey September air.
The Firth is as calm as the waters
that no longer fill my belly;
clouds – pale as my blood-drained,
They pierced me with a witch’s nail;
they unplugged me.
I want to sink into the Clyde –
sink into its amniotic fluids.
The doctors and nurses rise out of my feet
like the hills of Gourock –
solid and unmoving.
The faint crescent of a daylight moon
is my baby’s heartbeat –
a half heart stilled in the sky,
It hovers above us all –
above my Firth of Clyde belly,
above the surgical hills,
above the whole earth
like Dali’s Christ.
I want to push the moon back inside
of me and let it grow
and grow whole, round and full.
Then I want to feel it fall
from between my legs; hold it
fresh and sticky,
beating between my breasts.
(Poems from Our Real Red Selves, anthology forthcoming from Vagabond Voices )
Marion McCready lives in Argyll. She has had poems published in a variety of magazines and anthologies including Poetry (Chicago) and The Glasgow Herald. Her first full-length collection, Tree Language, was published by Eyewear Publishing (2014). Marion blogs at http://sorlily.blogspot.co.uk.