Keening Woman

Just after two

The mocking bird stopped

Taunting outside your window

And its silence

Pierced my depths

While I danced at the grove

Of weeping women

I could not let go

Where chaos threatened

To reign-

Not a tear was shed

Not one

With  profound inner calmness

I rested my head by your temple

On the sweat-drenched pillow

And became a clear light

Through which you

Passed silently

With barely a breath

Mother lunged

With the fierce power

Of a lioness tearing her

Fragile little one

From the mouths

Of jackals

But the jackals

Carried you off anyway

My hand


On her heaving body

Thrown over yours

And my voice speaking

The words

Let     Him   Go

How could I mourn

When the jackals

Were  already stalking

Another prize?

There was no wake

No place to mark where

Your ashes were strewn

The sorrow

Buried itself in my DNA

Where it replicated to form

Every cell which renewed


In my body

And it seeped into my

Dreams in the long

Solitary nights

I dreamed of women

In ancient times

Who would rend their

Clothes when the wind

Carried to them

Across the acres

The last breath

Of their beloved

Child or lover

In death

She feared not

The encroaching madness

Which would overtake

And lead her

To walk the long miles

On foot

To the house

Where the body

Whose soul had

Taken flight

Held its door open

To her mournful tread

As the hands of time

Stood still,

The mirror shrouded

Could not reflect

The unbound woman

She had become

O Keening Woman!

Teach me your

Wordless song

Which holds back

The hounds of hell

Let unravel in me

The sorrow

Which keeps me bound

To a hundred yesterdays

With unshed tears

31 October 2010

Please note that this poem is not in reference to the tradition of keening at a wake, with or without pay. I read long ago an article about stories of women among the ancient Goídels who would sense the passing of loved ones and grieve so wildly that those around them thought them temporarily mad. They are reported to have dropped what they had been doing and walked in a kind of trance, sometimes over several counties, to the spot where their loved one lay dead.

I took the photograph at a stunningly beautiful cemetery in Berlin, Germany several years ago.


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