Blood Child

by Eleanor Rees


Blood Child

Behind the house a single stark tree,

cherries still ripe though it is mid-winter.

Bletched fruit on bare branches ooze like a cut thumb,

each drop in slow motion falling onto hard soil.

Inside in a silent kitchen, on a metal table, apples curdle

in a handmade bowl; mulched bills ferment on varnished pine.

In the garden, past the pond, the tree stretches

like spilt ink, over-tall, bent back,

to eye a yellow crescent crisp in a fold of cloud.

Black night glass reflects back the dead centre of a pupil.

 

Blood drips from the mouth of the house.

Blood floods the dry seas of the moon.

 

On the stained-glass window of the empty hall

red flecks fall, become ice as hail chimes angular

to grey pebble-dash and dripping blood begins to take a form:

of a red-ice-child-creature, gleaming like a ruby

standing silent at the wind-opened door.

The storm glowers behind the outline like a tiger.

It roars but she cannot hear him.

You are not there to listen for her.

The hallway is an empty blue. Books rattle in their case.

Outside she stands like death. The door closes in her face.

 

Blood drips from the mouth of the house.

Blood floods the dry seas of the moon.

 

Where are you?  Are you asleep in bed upstairs

or running breathless down the street?

Maybe you don’t live here anymore?

Are you away in a cottage in the woods

or on a moving train, window patch-black smacked with yellow?

Are you underwater, swimming through

the last swathe of the tide? Are you listening for wolves

at the back of your mind? Are you in a hospital

deep under sterile silver and nurses’ blue?

Yes, where are you?

 

Blood drips from the mouth of the house.

Blood floods the dry seas of the moon.

 

O Mother has gone missing, she has gone to ground

I sing abandoned at the outskirts of the town.

 

O Mother has gone missing, she has gone to ground

I sing as wolves’ prowl around.

 

O Mother has gone missing, she has gone to ground

I sing a shining knife in hand.

 

O Mother has gone missing, she has gone to ground

I sing full-voiced with the choir of the land.

 

Yes, where are you?

 

In the garden, the tree flinches, scratched by rats,

the storm sifted from the watercourse;

small muscular movements smatter on a shield of dark.

Cherries gone, turned to child,

who crouches on the front step, red-ice-storm-creature

as bloodied as prey, silent as an unknown song.

As the snow comes along, the tree sighs and bows

and stretches again, under-tall, copying the hill, bends down.

In the house, on the living room floor, a wool rug

turns to water, small boats sail to wind-fed shores.

 

Blood drips from the mouth of the house.

Blood floods from the dry seas of the moon.

 

Are you underground, in the cellar or soil

hiding in the mulch and leaves? Are you rooted

in the dirt or rolled up in the rot,

heart beating slow, lost light in your eye?

Or are you in the wood pile, kneeling under last year’s pine

needles sticking into folded skin, or are you

gone from here, aloof in the wind like a wild goose

journeying south from darkness, garden soil

untended, land unturned? Are you un-become,

laid bare in the last light of winter sun?

 

Blood drips from the mouth of the house.

Blood floods the dry seas of the moon.

 

In the kitchen the tap drips a slow red drop

onto stainless steel clouded with washing-up sods.

White light filters in through an open window.

Outside the garden heaves in wind; one breath.

A figure runs along the alley, a child or fox

but closer, starry red, her bright face at the glass.

The tree paws the soil like a horse, a branch

turning over loose earth with a sway, a lilt, a whip,

a crack but only as far as its roots will allow.

What is the spell that holds them still?

 

Blood drips from the mouth of the house.

Blood floods the dry seas of the moon.

 

It is the spell of silence,

child, she doesn’t speak to the house.

 

It is the spell of silence,

child, she doesn’t breathe to the frost.

 

It is the spell of silence,

child, she doesn’t sound in her throat.

 

It is the spell of silence,

child, so she doesn’t feel the loss.

 

Yes, where are you?

 

And the rats run to the river and the dogs

run to the river and the chimneys spark like kindling.

From far west flickers a firestorm through the town,

soot and smoke, sea buckling in distance,

a hot avalanche across frost-crested rooftops.

The red-ice-blood-creature waits on the doorstep,

listens for a high pitched wail from the garden;

fat of a song. The tree is whipping hard

against the fence, it cannot run. Branches

stacked one on one form a shield. The fire comes.

 

Blood drips from the mouth of the house.

Blood floods the dry seas of the moon.

 

The house raises its head, tips back its neck.

In the hall a vase falls south, a ship in a storm.

Empty glasses smash their silence inside the kitchen cabinets.

A knitted doll tumbles down stripped wood stairs.

And underneath in foundations bricks

plough down into sandy earth like a rudder

and the bow of the building turns for the river.

The roof flips like a flag and the whole house

dredges through the molten earth which parts

like waves, splitting the garden wall, tarmac road.

Inside the schism, tree roots hang like curls.

 

Blood drips from the mouth of the house.

Blood floods the dry seas of the moon.

 

In the wall of mud, each frond turn, forms

a human face, oval-shaped, which calls out, Where are you?

Fire on the horizon crumples church-towers

as the red-ice-blood-creature starts to drip and ooze,

a snowman after snow has gone, warmth

scythes the sides of her small girl shape and becomes

a spring, a stream, a brook, a tidal river shifting mud

and roots to form a gorge with wooded sides;

through leaves two red figures run, girl and woman,

each a ruby mark amongst a basalt green.

 

Blood drips from the mouth of the house.

Blood floods the dry seas of the moon.

 

And their melting blood flattens the fire.

At the crest of the ridge, as large as the sun,

lamp-lit town below like embers in the hearth,

steam in the street now quiet as cold the woman

who was a tree reaches out a hand to catch a crescent

painted onto navy cloth, tilts it back and forth,

then picks up her child, the red-ice-blood-creature

and pours her like lava onto the crust of the moon,

staining it sticky and the light spills like wine over the valley,

and a single cherry tree, in a garden, behind an empty house,

the fruit still ripe though it is mid-winter.

 

Blood drips from the mouth of the house.

Blood floods the dry seas of the moon.

© Eleanor Rees