the madrigal, volume ii
On finding the women of my family tree
by alice watson
Dig down there's roots to be disturbed, way back
pushing up through kitchen floor, smoke stained air,
tangled round these grafted hearts, ours and mine,
take their place in memories now lost to grave
stones, still, which sing of life and love and birth
the women’s tales which lie unwritten, wait.
Body, sodden, bent over with the weight
of seven children carried back-to-back.
Curled green leaves, new saplings brought to birth
branches stretch and twist, suck untasted air
whilst desiccated leaves cover tiny grave
and the wood of grief grows and waits for mine.
Life of labour, for men of field and mine.
Were days hectic, or did you have to wait
for life to wake up; journeys, dangers grave
across the border, scarcely looking back?
Or how many sons left that clean thin air?
How many more took final breath at birth?
I pull through records, days of death and birth,
panning for connection, gem from dark mine
evaporated, vanished into air
whole lives full, loves and passions, heavy weight
of gold, yet left as hooked to others, back
to wife and mother - name etched onto grave.
Now blackbird cantors high above that grave
where we now wander searching, linked by birth
to follow roots which lead me further back
to names which cannot share themselves with mine.
Mothers of blood, whose stories gave me birth,
who whisper words on bluebell scented air.
And what of you who failed to give an heir?
Who lie in lost abandoned rain-worn grave.
Do you sit still, in sweeter country wait,
for me to stumble on you? - date of birth
or death - and pin to tended tree of mine
which buds and blossoms, seeking a way back.
My running child, come back, to rest in dappled air.
See new stems marked, mine, growing out to grave
carve my date of birth, hold my hand, and wait.
Alice is a new poet, a priest, and a mother living in Northamptonshire, England. She is inspired by the natural world and the intersections with the human experience. At the moment she is trying to learn to paint. She has had poems published or upcoming in Earth and Altar, The Amethyst Review, and Dreich. She posts on Twitter @alicelydiajoy.