Northwords Now

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The Kinswoman

by Ingrid Leonard

In the morning, she laid a fire
of wood-scuffs and newspaper
which she rolled and folded
in luciferan twists

Industry of the hearth,
she knew the measure of grain
by the cup of her palm,
the stove time for its boiling

The bellies of children
were filled with bread,
butter at room temperature
and freckled eggs

She served tea by the gallon
at dances, cut bread
into rounds for fêtes
and the neighbour’s funeral

Her house was the antidote
to the muck of the farm,
the corners of rooms scunnered
at her sweep, the unmistakeable

kinswoman, you know her.
Scourer of dirt and more
in the calm that hovers between
folds of pressed cloth.

On a dresser in a room
in Skara Brae a pebble rests,
virgin oblation on flagstone
to the hearth-toil of women,
their swept cupboards and skulls
of fresh water a resolve
to the equation of stars.

I am no kinswoman.  
I seek her perfume in the words
I write. Truly, I bid her step down
from the stars each night
to stream language, a liquid
that spills and cradles,
the skim and dreg of stones
glancing in the scullery.

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