Thursday, May 11, 2006

Poetry Thursday #6

I have finally gotten round to finding out about permalinks, and realised I should number these posts, otherwise they will all have the same link. I think. And that would be confusing.

This week I am posting one of my own. It might help to understand this, to know that in Scotland there was a traditional order of naming children after various relatives. If a child died, another child might then be given the same name, so that grandma's name still got passed down (or grandpa's, or whomever). Oh, and a mortcloth was a cloth that was hired to place over the body at a burial, because they couldn't afford coffins - or if they did use coffins, they were very rough board boxes which needed covering up.

Hard Water, Soft Rock

Five years since, the minister called the banns
on three successive Sundays. There being
no objections, they were duly married.
Today in the same church, she names her daughter Agnes

Twice before she has done this,
The first time it was famine, the second it was fever
that carried the child off. Scarce time
to have the bairn baptised, before
they’re paying for the mortcloth.
She names her daughter Agnes,
because it was her mother’s name.

Spring struggles with winter. Ice still sheets
the edges of the Bannock Burn. Snow lies
unmelted in the kirkyard, in the shadows
cast by the two small mounds. She prays
there will not be another.

She names her daughter Agnes,
because it was her mother’s name
and her mother’s mother’s mother before her
And because all families continue forever,
looking backwards


Star said...

Michele sent me. I like the story your poem tells. It says a lot with not too many words.

sage said...

interesting background to this poem...great illustration and imagery...thanks for sharing!


Deb R said...

I'm glad you shared some background, Catherine. It really helped me to get it, since I didn't know about either the naming tradition or what a mortcloth is.

The poem is sad, but hopeful. I love the final two lines of this poem, in particular.

paris parfait said...

Touching and bittersweet...

chiefbiscuit said...

Great poem!

liz elayne said...

thank you for sharing this background information so the depth of this poem could speak to me as i read your words.