Greetings Garden Dwellers,
Fireblossom and Izy are here with our sweltering summer addition to the toad collaborations. Now that the summer months have dragged their miserable face across the weeks, we have no choice but to drop this poem on your door step and run off into the woods. Attached is an urgently scrawled note too sweaty to read. We hope you can give this piece some warm milk and a comfy bed. Enjoy....
When spring comes to St.Alban’s Home for Girls,
they take the axe from the stump,
and the heavy volumes down from the attic.
Situated on a hillside, at St. Alban’s it is hard to find one's balance.
The teachers will tell you
"a girl on her own is as smoke from the fire--
steam from the kettle--
gone soon enough and little missed."
In Enid Grace's night shirt pocket,
she keeps a scrap of paper
as old as herself.
She folds and unfolds it,
as if this act could level sloping St. Alban’s,
and change the urgently scrawled words:
"Baby girl. Please keep
until old enough for the workhouse."
St. A.’s, unbalanced landing place
for crow-girls who drop from stricken branches,
girls taught and tethered by wingless women carrying bibles in one hand
and madness in the other--
Wind will always call a crow-girl,
there is no verse to counter that.
When the branch breaks, and there is nothing but air to dance upon,
another chapter will write itself, more holy than the first.
The moment she arrived at St. Alban’s,
Enid Grace started to plan her escape.
One day, she imagined,
she would ride away on a motorbike
while the other girls cheered her on.
She was far too alive for the ghosts
who sat in the shadows
and licked the paste from the wallpaper.
Sarah, her friend, her match, her second wing,
said the ghosts spoke to her,
said they whispered in riddles
and nibbled on her toes.
What would you have done?
Confess it, you'd have done as these girls did--
Enid Grace and Sarah drawing pentagrams on the splintery wooden floor.
What of the cough that made the rounds of the staff?
What of the handyman with his Indian motorcycle and his wrong smile?
What of the the miles ahead and the miles behind?
The girls laid out the cards and asked their questions--
Their answers came from the walls
in faint screeches and tongue lashes
that tickled their knees.
Enid Grace did not understand any of it,
but Sarah’s good ear and Gypsy’s memory
allowed her to translate:
avoid the woods at night
and the handyman--a few girls
already in the ground could tell of his deeds.
Sister Marney and Sister Francis were short for this world
their cough a signal of drowning lungs.
And the miles ahead....
Sarah grabbed Enid Grace’s hands,
flashing a smile so sweet and sad,
she wanted to cry without hearing a single word.
“A fat baby for you,” Sarah said.
“No, two fat babies.
And a husband who washes the dishes.
And an icebox filled with hamburger and cola.”
“And what about you?” Enid Grace asked.
Sarah shook her head, held her finger to her lips,
and said,“A crow-girl never spoils a good fortune
with her own news.”