“From the mid-ark, a dove…”

The cold Roman eye, hand on seal.
Vale. Take the thief away.

‘You carry your own tree, Jimmy…’
Another gallowsbird behind.
One ahead, burdened, a bruised brightness.

I’ve carried millstones, wine-vats, a mast.
That one was a carpenter.
His knees buckle under the heavy baulk.

My mother, poor woman, is dead.
His mother is here. Poor woman. Poor woman.

Look, Simon’s come into town
With an ox to sell.
They’ve laid another yoke on Simon.

Veronica, seamstress. No napkin ever
Soaked up such blood and sweat.

I stagger but I don’t fall.
The sneak-thief plods like a mule.
The bright one, he’s down again.

Those women! Miriam, Judith, Esther
Go home, sing over your cradles.
Sing among looms and pots.

Below, cornfields and vineyards.
A third time, fallen.
He tastes golden dust.

The soldiers won’t bother, I think,
Haggling over my coat.
No scarecrow would wear a rag like that.

Silence – curses – from cross and cross.
From the mid-ark
A dove wings out into the blackest storm.

Thrust of lance into heart-root.
The soldiers are coming with mallets
To break the legs of the thieves.

The eyes of the mother
Drown all the world in pity and love.
The hammer beats on my knee.

That the hands of such a woman
Fold me gravewards.
Bear me and all men in her folds of light.

– George Mackay Brown


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