Mandy Macdonald – three poems

Grimes Graves

we went there decades ago
walked the pockmarked heath
in the long slanting shadows of afternoon

no visitor centre then, nor guidebook
to tell us we were looking at flint mines, not graves at all
just the inside-out tumuli, the
shallow shell-holes in dimpled grass
threaded with pathways traced out
five thousand years ago

around our careful feet
grayling and skipper quartered eyebright, wild thyme
stripes of heather
light grazed the pit rims, skimming
the grassy quincunx of circles

straight up above, skylarks
doing their damnedest to untune the sky

in the air around us, time pleated, shimmered aurora-like
it seemed things were happening just out of sight or hearing
flicking away
swift, brown things, and the faintest pure ringing
of flint on flint

to avoid discussing our failing marriage
we talked of earthworks, godstruck neolithics
that ‘Venus’ statuette they’d found probably a hoax

and four decades on
on the telly
another story

of farmers turned miners, industrial minds
knowing that the finest flint, the best for shaping
the most precious
waited for them underground

of young ones chosen to enter the earth
like lovers
climb down out of childhood
claw out warrens
forty feet deep
with stone, antler and jawbone
unimaginably slow
and then bring up with triumph
from those cold chalk-white shafts
the music of the flint

it was when she fell

in the laundry downstairs
with a sound that might have been a shout
but floated up to me
whiteish, fluting, a wounded butterfly
or a lovesong carried faintly on the wind
from several streets away

that i noticed
the egg-slicer
still in the kitchen sink
though it was well past

no goodbyes

that year, in the spring,
it rained for weeks –
you remember it, surely –

that was the year we saw the last of him

surely you remember
his coming in, ramshackle, slicking
rain on the sittingroom rug

climbing the stairs, silently
before anyone could say a word –
you remember, you looked at me,
eyebrow quirked, as though
I might have a clue

then, front door clicking
brief crescendo of rainwhoosh, sharply
snicked into silence

and we never saw him again

never knew how
he could have come downstairs and past us
without our catching a rustle of him

don’t you remember?

Mandy Macdonald is an Australian writer and musician living in Aberdeen and trying to make sense of the 21st – and earlier – centuries. She returned to poetry after many years via Jo Bell’s path-breaking ‘52’ project. You can find her in excellent company in A Bee’s Breakfast, Aiblins: New Scottish Political Poetry (Luath Press, 2016), Poetry Scotland, The Fat Damsel, Triadae, Rat’s Ass Review, Contemporary Haibun Online, and elsewhere. When she’s not writing, she sings, sometimes while gardening.


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