Cairn by Dark by Cairn

July 1, 2014


Neile Graham is Canadian by birth and inclination, but lives in Seattle, Washington. As Workshop Director for Clarion West, her life is full of writing and writers. She has three books of poetry, most recently Blood Memory, and a spoken–word CD, She Says: Poems Selected & New, as well as poems in various journals, including Strange Horizons, Goblin Fruit, and Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet.

Read the conversation the stones have
to make the wall. Read their will.
How the low passage humbles you

warns you what you must give up
to enter here: when you crawl,
it’s your first–born child;

when you stoop, it’s the best
year of your life; when your bones
crack hard enough to make you hiss

against the walls and roof, it’s
a painless death among those you love.
Still, you enter, though the passage bends

and breaks you, knowing inside
you can rise to your full height
giant now, Long Lankin, Longshanks,

lucky you, blood beating behind your eyes.
What can you see? The generations
here gone while your pulse still beats?

What is this mud you stand in
as you read the absent dead
in the hollows where their heads

have lain (separate from their other
long–discarded bones)?
Why this so–carefully piled stone?

To echo the bone. Too late you understand
the mud smearing your cheek
is blood and ashes. The seeping rain

forced tears, the sodden green and musty air
your own stale breath.
Well you may ask who lives here

in this nest where the dust
of the dead has paid its dues. Who
does? Who could? Oh most darling lucky you.

© Neile Graham

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