blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsFall 2009  Vol. 9. No. 2






Burial Of a Young Woman with a Newborn Baby Beside
Her on a Swan’s Wing

Vedbaek, Denmark, c. 6,800 BP

My tunic—a painted chainmail of snails’ shells,
Hundreds, its beadwork my shroud & raiment.

Into the clay I’m lowered. Incantation & spell.
My brothers, sisters, parents.
                                                The eyelids—

Open forever, to meet the afterlife awakened.
Crimson ochre hissed through hollow reeds

Covers my face; my eyes dazzle, I died young—
16, 18, ochre too rains down upon my pelvis,

Signifying death in childbirth. Beside the shoulders
My stillborn is placed,
                                   a boy, & he’s gripping

An antler spearpoint longer than his torso.
The afterlife, the afterlife.
                                          He’s cradled on a swan’s wing:

The gods’ white messenger, the feathered & disjointed pinion,
Which can’t be my wing since it is only one.

return to top