Whatever Happened to Cain? (ii)
A woman giving birth in the cow byre,
her agony loud in the cold night air.
All the bedrooms full to bursting
I slept out amongst the camels.
During the early hours
a fall of snow brought silence,
giving the lie
of a world remade,
of a world, somehow
Later, I took the Jerusalem road,
keeping pace with a company of soldiers
loud voiced and coarse,
above me a hawk,
its shape cruciform
in grey winter air.
Mick Corrigan has been writing for years and has been published in a range of periodicals, anthologies, magazines and on-line journals. He is in his fifties (at least he thinks they’re his fifties, they could be someone else’s), and lives in County Kildare with Trish his lifer, Molly the talking wonder dog and Ben the far too clever collie. He divides his time equally between the islands of Ireland and Crete and the vast open space in the back of his head. His first collection, Deep Fried Unicorn, will be published in December by Rebel Poetry.
The Census at Bethlehem
This version of the census is set where God
had never intended. The snowy town is full of men,
enjoying themselves, or bent to their work. A woman,
gently leads a child by the hand; others sweep streets, or pierce
resin-scented casks of wine or ale. The town’s edges
erupt with activity, unhalted by snow-fall.
A cluster of peasants, beside the full inn, fell
their fat sows one at a time. They are all gods,
eternal and mercurial, to the pigs who await the edge
sent to spurt their steaming blood into the pan. A man
tightens his grip on his long brown blade. It’s hard to pierce
the throat’s tough hide. This sacrifice attracts no weeping women.
Reliquary-like casks are clustered by the woman
undertaking to remain on her donkey without falling.
Their tops are crusted – caskets of snow a man must pierce
hard with a pick to start the sweet flow. God
seems far away, to him. It isn’t the Sabbath. Nearby, men
hang their heads, waiting for their work to be culled by Caesar’s edge.
In the distance, merchants skate on sharpened steel edges.
Deep into winter, the lake’s a glass that women
expertly find their faces in. One hunched man
readjusts his burden, watches his clear forehead sweat fall.
It’s ice before it lands. This worn-out child of God
grunts, and moves on, marring the lake; leaving it pierced.
Halfway to the ruined castle children shriek piercingly;
terrible in joy. Brought to ecstasy’s edge,
in pure delight, they pummel each other with snow-balls. God
never made a higher joy than this, thinks the woman
freezing by the barren oak. She says, ‘I hope no one falls.’
‘Relax, dearheart. They’re having fun.’ reassures her man.
One exhausted donkey trails behind a man.
Nazareth is far from here. The woman’s heels are piercing
the soft skin of his flanks. Still, he won’t let her fall
onto the ground. She’s heavier than she was, but the edge
fear’s lent her voice makes him protective. The woman
yearns for the end of pregnancy. She prays, ‘Please, God.’
Once, a man led a woman into Bethlehem’s snow-fall.
Under God’s eye, they rode through the town’s edge, pierced by cold.
Bethany W Pope is an LBA winning author. She has published several collections of poetry: A Radiance (Cultured Llama, 2012) Crown of Thorns, (Oneiros Books, 2013), and The Gospel of Flies (Writing Knights Press 2014), and Undisturbed Circles (Lapwing, 2014). Information about her work can be found at www.bethanywpope.com