Wendy Heath

The Shoemaker

News coverage of a thin man’s blue black shadow swirling in the shallow Greek sea.
When they say he will be returned to Turkey he says, have mercy.

Your dead parents perch on a branch reaching towards a landscape only you inhabit.  It is grassy, speckled with clover and vetch, harebell and flint. A chalky hollow runs through.  You descend until you reach a bridge.  A rambler in blue shorts passes by.  Swans encircle the sky.  You have a choice: go back up through the hollow where tree roots remind you of owls or follow the lane round the hill.  Both ways lead to a long-haired woman who slips out from under a craggy copse of hawthorn and sits upon a stone step.  The step is one of three leading to an oak gate.  Through the gate a path, overgrown with speedwell and buttercup, leads to a ramshackle hut with one window.  Four walls are covered in script – red on black.  A tilt of your head and the text disappears until twilight seeps in.  Only then does the story unfold.  You read of a promised foal born to that white mare you encountered once upon a time through the window of your parents’ Ford sedan.  She cantered through a stone wall and was gone. Gone from sight but in you like a dream or a heartbeat, a gift.  Years later she carried you up a mountain.  Just last year you discovered a photograph of her on your street in an artisan’s shop. You framed it and placed it above your print of a caribou in snow in moonlight.  Somehow you think of mare and caribou as cohorts in the scheme of things, propelling you along in slow animal chat.

The foal’s wobbly legs.  Her tail.  Her proximity to her mother.  These you sense.  A silver hair clasp in the shape of a child flashes in the low light of sunset.  It belongs to the woman on the step who stirs from her contemplative pose.  She whirls like a dervish calling you into the cyclone of her weight.  You have another choice to make:  go there or dissolve.  You find stillness in spinning.  Your hands hold reins made from the muscles and ligaments of your own body.  You smell blood.  Is the red script blood or fire or both?  The countryside is dense with your burning.  The arms of a warrior queen embrace you.  She has something to give you, if you could just make out what it is.  You make out with her, mouth to mouth, tongue to tongue.  A red bird alights on your head.  You see battlefields where swords lop off the wings of children, forcing them to stand on their feet.  And their feet need protection.

You search the hut for needle and thread. The long-haired woman inside of you becomes the handiwork and its quietude, its rhythm and strategies, its pattern.   Shoemaker by moonlight, you see the foal lead thousands upon thousands of small feet into the bowls of warm soapy water set out before you.  The refugee in the shallow Greek sea has never left you.  His two only words led you in.


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