The Cottage in the Wood
Be careful of the stories you keep, my mother said.
Peel back their metaphors and check under their skins
before you put them into your basket.
Mother forgets, sometimes, the basket, the tightness
of its weave, how big its handle. Life was simpler
under lamp-posts. It’s hard to remember
when Mother stopped dropping breadcrumbs. Only
that the birds had been angry. After they filled the sky
with loud wings and black, cloud-heavy shadows, she
stopped looking up or back – closed the track.
And lost became so normal it almost felt
like the cottage in the wood was home.
Siblings were a dream I couldn’t let
myself coddle. Sleep, the rhythm of water that has
nowhere left to fall. Mother was a pool of cave.
The witch my mother had made for me was
a fragment of heat on the scent of gingerbread.
However much I ate, I would never be full.
He promised me wings, said
some creatures are meant to fly.
Sun-gazing had taken his eyes.
On the ground he was clumsy –
I am clumsy. Was that why he chose me?
Always, I look down. I know feet
better than hands; shy away from fingers
bloody with stolen feathers. When he fell
without words, no one knew that patch
of earth better than I: the worn soil
where things no longer grow. The family
plot, shoes left at the door. His promised wings.
(previously published in The Interpreter’s House, 2016)
Based in Devon, Hannah Linden has been published online, in print magazine and anthologies. She was highly commended in the 2015 Prole Laureate Competition; and, with Gram Joel Davies, won the 2015 Cheltenham Poetry Festival Compound Poetry Competition. Over the last couple of years she has been putting together her first collection, Wolf Daughter, which explores the impact of parental suicide and these poems are part of that collection. Twitter @hannahl1n