Blood and Old Belief: A Verse Novel by Paul Hetherington

By Paul Hetherington

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Example text

22 Fifteen: Jack Jack’s anger builds as Cecilia mourns. He shouts at her and slams the flywire door, searching for some contact. She is lost like a child that pain has overwhelmed sitting in a yard. Nothing works to quell the inward-spilling focus of her grief, her dark and curt replies. ‘I cannot talk,’ she says when staring down her husband’s eyes. ❧ He holds the spoon as tightly as a vice then lets it gently down into a cup, the blue-white porcelain as fine as light, Dresden-made a hundred years ago.

In cool water she’s free from her anxiety. Her forebears swam here too; she has a drawing and a diary, found in the old homestead, jammed into a hidden corner. She’s rebound the diary with glue of flour-and-water and rough muslin. It describes ‘exquisite pleasure’ through a day very much like this. A looping feminine hand writes out a life and recipes in private code, that says, ‘At last T. has arrived. ’ The entries end without revealing what was then begun or changed. ’ Still she remembers this, still she thrills and frightens and absolves herself of fear, and as the bull begins to stumble forward into a canter, she can smell his breath as a faint aroma, and the steady hands that let her go feel large as emptiness.

She hides this thought, knowing the photographs have been left to vanish in a place no-one except her enters. The dark gaze is only hers as secret and as whisper. ❧ 46 Now my great-aunt’s quiet words one day when I had stayed to kiss her wrinkled cheek, return again: ‘You’re the image of Elsie’s child— poor Emily who died so young. ’ ❧ The old homestead is made of a hewn frame, rough iron that clangs in wind, split bricks of earth once smoothed and closely pressed, that gape and bulge. Inside it’s laid with objects, long disused: a leather harness, crazy with twisted stiffness, coiling wire, saddles that smell of age.

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