How to Make a Shroud
Start in the dark Pick stray linseeds from the cracks in the barn floor Use your night eyes Slip them through a hole in a blown egg Cradle the seed of seeds in its fragile armor porous and pale Rest it in a mud bowl lined with hay Plow the fields under measuring the rows by the sunrise of your shadow Plant on your knees feel the dew soak through Be sure you smell of earth Be sure the ground will recognize you when you come back to it Sow linseeds in the long loam Pock the field with promise Cup in your hands what has become of the rabbits the elk the plumage moss bark bees turtles What has become of the turtles And the rotten logs on which they sunned themselves Press the earth over the bodies of the seeds Crop your hair close scatter your plot with the clippings Watch for coyotes badgers red-winged blackbirds Lose track of time
When the blue flowers have bloomed and wept and the stalks begin to pale pull each plant from the root Shock the bare flax out in the field for retting To soil-stain in the sun/rain For the magnifying dew to dissolve the pectin Gather it into the barn to dry Crush the brake down on each stalk splitting Get your scutching knife Divide each stalk from itself Reveal the bast let the shives fall to the ground Draw each piece through hackling combs making long strands golden gray Sing as you spin them into strong firm thread Loom the flax and weave it Sling the shuttle with great gestures left and right exorcising demons making a wind of linen Thread a needle for a simple running stitch Work the needle through the gauze of night Draw through the white-threaded windows Watch with embroidery eyes for the glint of light on the sharp end Draw through Draw through When it is sutured bury it in the dirt like the seed while it waits for the rags of your body Pock the field with promise Lose track of time
Kristen Roach writes about earth, air, fire, and water on an acre along the original College Highway between Yale and Smith. Her poetry has most recently been hosted by The Pomegranate London and The Fib Review. You will also find it in issues of Stay Journal and The Louisville Review after the clocks have sprung forward and the peepers have started to sing.
A Song for Kristen