the sisters of the Holm speak
in the fulmar’s tongue
the seals’ song, the north wind
whistling through the Scaun,
they speak the psalter’s moan,
how they had mothers, were born,
are afraid of the chambered cairn.
They sing cockles, dandelion petals in June.
Their language is the story of bones,
their islet breaks water into foam.
Each sister re-formed as a listening bowl.
the holm is a book of hours
I slide willow leaves between the pages,
read how it lays down not tide, not light
but that the hens must be fed.
The binding rises clear, a little isle
inscribed on the frontispiece,
as a small grassy island with heather sleeping.
The scribe who copied it
wrote at the heart of things,
Marsh marigolds, the blue of the ocean.
I turn to psalms of degrees,
the calendar, the strait dividing
holm from mainland
and the Little Hours of the Virgin.
I recite the Office of the Dead,
contemplate the willow, receive salt on my tongue.
OCTOBER 2022 Lydia Harris MONK
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