Fallows and Fault Lines (I)


It’s dirty work. All week now
I’ve been on my knees, pulling weeds,
shins crosshatched with gravel and grass.
All autumn I’ve been backburning, undoing
the overgrowth, digging to my core.
It goes against all instinct. I gnaw
at my nails, pull out my hair, bruise down
to bedrock. I wonder what I might find
below the pale surface of my belly,
what I might hold in the cradle
of my hips. I think of this same season
so many years ago, when I first felt
the instinct that something had grown wild
within, the premature and primal urge
to bite the cord.
Something in me has fled. When I say
that something has fled I mean that nothing
has died. In the fields I come across
flattened grass crosshatched into nests
but never any eggs, nothing newborn.
I wonder if they are not nests but instead beds
of nails, of human hair, of bedrock. Flashes
of nacre rising from silt; another name
for the buried mother. The way I speak of this
means more than I can say. Groundwater,
overgrowth, the ore of it all. A stripped mine,
seamed to something at least as sharp as bone.
I take a softer stone between my teeth until
I’m all gums, until something in me turns
to dormancy. I wonder at expensive veins
and open pits, at hardness, at mica stitched
through quartz. The way I speak of this geology
cleaves cleaner lines than faults. When I say
that a pearl is a softer stone I mean
that it is not a stone at all.

Christine Barkley