Blackbox manifold

Issue 15: Helen Moore

Devil’s Rope

           For A.T.

‘… black too the muscles striving to pull out into the light.’ – Ted Hughes

Vicious gibbet, Crow hanging by a tendon in her foot,

snagged, we surmised, as she landed on the wire –

then numerous attempts to free herself, wings beseeching the air,

excavations of pain deep within her brain.

Collateral crucifixion, we could barely speculate

on the time it took to die – now, beak pointing at the ground,

leg muscles torn, claws set round the barb

in an improvised ‘e’ (‘e’ for epitaph, ‘e’ for entreaty),

the wind mocks Crow’s former vitality, ruffling

greyish down, lifting the stiff, pleated feathers,

twitching her tail. Later I return to vigil with her, seated

on the grassy bank beside the horses’ pasture –

this silent wake on lunar Beltane, the Sun

etching steel clouds over Midlothian, and touch

a veil of horror hanging round the black cadaver,

mourn this mirror of our culture’s darkness.

Earlier you’d affirmed my capacity to face the world’s suffering

and yet to love. Moved by this observation and sorrow,

tears flow in streaks as I lift my face to the sky – a peripheral

awareness of mare and stallion ambling across. 

Tender scoops of nostril huff in the scent of death,            

then rising of over the devil’s rope, a pair of equine angels

snuffles with velvet lips at my cheeks, stands in slow communion –

‘e’ for empathy, ‘e’ for ennoblement of Crow.  

The Clearing Moon

Sometimes it takes a house-move to see things clearly –

stuff (with its underwritten stories) pressing in from every side

like the saggy padding of the sofa where we sink

when part of us has died.

Last night, full Moon in Sagittarius, and a burning wish

to build a funeral pyre for old expressions

of myself – belongings piled

to fuel a conflagration raging to the sky.

But the constraints of an urban garden

required a taming of my ambitions – so the wok on tripod

legs sited on the lawn, and into the flames

sheaves of notebooks, letters, Valentine’s cards,

the marriage album in natural fibres, and How to Survive

a Pisces. The fire wanted more, and soon devoured 

bundled scrolls with my qualifications… (for what, Life?

In all these years no one’s ever asked to see them!

Over three hours I stoked the swirling dance

of transformation… the magic of the smoking poker,

blackened leaves of paper curling,

making fragile rows of Bracket Fungus.

Often the wind conjured Fire-flies

out over the lawn, or bigger satellites that rose

and fell like Toadstools, wondrous orange spots

winking into night. 

Finally, the Moon rising behind chimneypots…

clouds vividly back-lit, before an inky wash

would come to blot it out.

Such moments were mirrors…

the mind, unquiet for days, settling into stillness

as I raked the embers, observed thoughts,

my emotions’ ebb and flow… until at last the ego floated

in subterranean rivers of the soul

Helen Moore is an award-winning ecopoet and socially engaged artist based in Frome, Somerset. Her debut poetry collection, Hedge Fund, And Other Living Margins (Shearsman Books, 2012), was described by Alasdair Paterson as being ‘in the great tradition of visionary politics in British poetry.’ Her second collection, ECOZOA (Permanent Publications, 2015), which responds to Thomas Berry’s vision of the ‘Ecozoic Era’, where we live in harmony ‘with the Earth as community’ has already been acclaimed by a leading literary figure, John Kinsella, as ‘a milestone in the journey of ecopoetics.’