blood & oak

If my heart has hardened, there is no one else to blame.

I have never been a woman unaccustomed to the shame

and bitter rebuke of who loved me, every bitter word a hound

that tore flesh from my bone and did not pause to heed the sound

of other hunters heeling, watch and wait;

do not give joy to bloodshed, do not mourn the deeds of fate.

Some stood by, bore witness, could not stand without frail shake;

others turned their eyes, slept sweetly,

could not curse and could not sing

of other, kinder keenings; other noble, softer things.

Give no days to slander, nor hours weeping wait;

and still, and still, and still, and still,

the dogs tore veins, broke faith.

There was no single, final blow,

no moment when the boar gave heave;

the elk stood still and blank-eyed,

the sparrow lose its wings.

I did not watch the world turn, no light before my eyes;

there was no rhyme or reason to the sorrow deep, so wide.

I did not feel it coming, could not understand the break;

soft bark did grow, close-cleaving,

my hands did lose their weight;

sweet furls of leaves young emerald,

acorns neat and new.

I was not old or young again,

nor bloody, no, nor used.

Listen deep my darling, for this is what is true:

hard oak is in my blood, dear one,

and it is so for you.

© 2018 Anna-Christina Betekhtin, All Rights Reserved.

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