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Blood-Leaf

I am red as blood-leaf.
My roots go down deep
Into the singing earth:
Into the rain dead shadows
Of the underworld,
Where rocks are scorched
Charcoal grey
And the cold sinks bones
Into jellied yesterdays.

The child I carry on my back,
Petrified in permafrost,
Will not thaw in these hot hands.

I cast a web of lines
Into the river.
Silver hooks pierce
The woman-flesh
Of passive fish:
Their big eyes
Full of weary sorrow,
Just like my mother’s.

My father breathes out
A sour haze:
Spinning my skin
In a taut tizz
Of anxiety.
Heavy as a cadaver,
He leans his weight on me.
Trembling with urgency,
He whispers:
Kill it...
Kill it dead”.

The blood-leaf
Curdles inside me:
Its shallow shadow
Slipping through
A sift of skin.
The tides ululate
To the dance
Of the moon;
And I am assaulted
By the shivering child
I carry on my back.

The knife is keen.
It pares the flesh
To a feather of bones
And lets loose
A red cascade
Of forgotten viscera.

There’s a poetry
In unadulterated violence:
Cut with raw speed,
It bleeds you
Of all indifference.

But it is not enough,
My father says;
And I must kill it dead,
Kill it dead again.

The blood-leaf twists me:
An opiate spume
Dribbles from my wounds.
I am lost now
To dreams of healing,
But doomed to carry
The child on my back
Another mile.

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