THE FROGMORE POETRY PRIZE 2002

 
Jamie Walsh
A BLESSING
 
Have you forgotten the shape and weight of it?
Of course – you were nothing when the soul of the law
was called back to the house. Cold, grey church.

And here a rite is laid out: flowers, steamed chicken,
sweet sticky rice, booze and bananas, candles, 24 baht,
sai sinh – a length of cheap white string made sacred.

A switch is made to flick twisted coins of water
from packed grasses: ka, plong, yo, kam koon.
A white cloth is placed directly behind the calf.

Chanting constructs the building, its eaves and steeple
at the limits of sound: a temporary shelter of voice-locked air
that will disperse when the need is done; a house built

from the ground up, not the top down. Voice locks with voice
at the reach of the throat, each word as mindful of its place
in the structure as the cells tuned by DNA: hall, den, room, lintel.

Windows of clear pitch allow light into the centre:
this momentary space created for a blessing. At the crease
of the roof, the temple is a whisper. Above: silence.

A chicken’s head is cleft and the jaw examined:
a straight bone is luck and fortune, a crooked curse and sickness.
This bone is straight. A very beautiful bone.

The calf is all oomph and nod, but at rite’s end he is lost.
He crawls beneath his mother’s gut for shade and plaint:
misbehaviour – he is woken, his trumpets eaten by the walls.

An elder sibling steps in as guide and quiets him.
Two months ago, she was as churlish, but on his birth
stepped up to big sisterhood. She has chosen to belong.

The temple of sound scatters, leaving only the empty space:
the voice returns to its home – the individual throat.
Drifting away: laughter, the heat of the day, chat –

It was a very beautiful bone.

It is necessary to call the soul of the forest back
when an infant is born to captivity; in the city,
the ways of the jungle are forgotten.


And here a rite is laid out for an elephant,
and you cannot forget the shape and size of it,
nor the cold, grey church that could not make you –

a length of cheap white string – sacred.

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