New Holloway

New Holloway
Catherine Rockwood

These tall weeds idly patted where they rise
between drystone walls and the forest trail:
she’d never not touch them. Kind kiss of leaf
on thigh, one palm buoyed up by lidded flowers,
and all thought strewed or strowed within the field’s
variety, like runners soon to fruit.
What’s near her grasp:
boneset, barley, motherwort? Hooked teasel?
Wordless, the meadow moves; unnamed, she rests.

Unnamed she rests but anger’s gathering
inside the forest. It knows neighbors guess
and hiss, knows their dry worry how she lights
the tinder of it with the glowworm’s spark
observed in fodder-grass. Her love of night,
dislike of sound advice, the way her mood
clears when the weather’s heavy – all, remarked.
Wordless, the meadow moves. The town speaks.

You, witch. It names her. She marks fear
bedded in kitchen-plots, lengthens her walks
and gathers weeds. Speedwell. Common elder.
Great twisted ropes of purple-shedding healall
hang from her eaves. Despite them there’s a crow
nailed to her gate one morning, there’s a lamb
long-dead that’s floating in her drinking well
and both animals speak. Witch, home’s not here.

Both animals speak. Her home is sere
as rushes when a river turns its course
as leaves dismantled on the forest floor.
Say on, she begs the crow, the suckling lamb,
yielding her ground to sorrow. Their lament
for windy roost, and moon, and dripping teat
will occupy her place, waking the town
until another stranger sets up here.

Set up here is the method of her leaving,
facing the wood that whispers Oh my dear one
they never could know you. She takes her knife
for gathering weeds: scores earth. Old trees
shift out before the run the iron makes,
clearing a road laid down in sap and dirt.

Above it frightened songbirds shriek and flit.
Beside it, stinging nettles vie with mint.

Catherine Rockwood reads a lot of seventeenth-century history and poetry, and a lot of feminist genre literature. She reviews books for Strange Horizons and Rain Taxi; poems can be found in Antiphon, The Fem, Literary Imagination, and elsewhere. This one goes out with thanks and apologies to Sylvia Townsend Warner and Ben Jonson.