We walk around the tombs at Sutton Hoo –
some emptied, some unopened – and the grasses
catch our hands. They spike the path, blonde and sharp.
The trees are shedding their triangular,
serrated leaves, metal-bright – as though
they'd eaten what was buried in the earth.
From the viewing platform, a glimpse of them
behind a mound: my shadow child, our other
selves. The clouds are full to purple, then
it pelts down. Inside the car, I listen,
stroke my abdomen as though the bleeding
would receive instruction, watch the windscreen
streaming dark and silver. The hissing
as hail flecks hit the glass, the glistening –
they twist into this sweet and bitter choice.
Our millefiori, I think. Rejoice.
We would've had a good life, shadow child
but here: the thousand flowers opening.
then; all height, smoothness,
all shining. Like those we build,
lined with metals, alloyed at a temperature
far higher than the point at which flesh incinerates.
Vault: volvere – volutum – to
A cavern. A chamber of interment.
A covered drain or sewer. The inside
of a steel furnace. But also: a gymnast's leap,
The cylinders revolving in a lock,
the convolutions of a spiral staircase.
A kaleidoscope, where segments flash
and fall, renew themselves. Yes,
The chamber's tissues fold
in configurations peculiar
to this woman. It has made her
precious. It has made it a privilege
coroner to enter.
My father called my sister, who smiled and said
not me. Then I was summoned to see if I liked
the cellophane, the lilac ribbon, the card.
I thought of the boy who sent them, how – when he looked
enlightened by my body – my guts obeyed
the earth’s downward drag. The house ached
with buds as green as boiled broccoli.
I took them, crushed the violet petals, streaky
with cream, jammed them into a vase. Only
my sister moved through the smell easily
like saying yes, like saying no should be.
Meryl Pugh was short-listed for the 2005 New Writing Ventures
Poetry Prize, and took up a Hawthornden Fellowship in that year. Her work most
recently appeared in Reactions 5, edited by Clare Pollard (Pen and
Inc Press, 2005). She works freelance in Museums and Education, and is
in her first year, studying for the MA part-time.