An Education in Silence
for the women of the Stanhope Street Magdalene Laundry
This morning, light spilled into the courtyard
as if God had opened a window.
The light is quiet and can’t be herded
from dormitory beds to morning mass –
it shines where it wants,
blushing the stained glass windows,
washing the priest’s words.
My mother doesn’t write.
It’s been three years. My hands
crack from the heat of the sheets
as we feed them through the mangle.
The high windows admit one square
of light, on the word repent
and I am silent like the sunlight.
An Education In Silence is © Jessica Traynor
He blows on his hands to warm them;
it looks like some ritual, some totem.
Between us, nothing but certainty –
the death-sound in the old woman’s throat –
and uncertainty – the priest’s whereabouts.
Our whispers summon only a flutter in her eyelids.
Someone had mentioned the man down the road
who lives alone, who gives some kind of absolution,
so here we find ourselves with this stout man
in a muddied fleece, who breathes on his hands
and places them on the woman’s shoulders.
Tears come first, spilling from her eyes;
those milky shallows that have mirrored us all evening
clear for a moment as he bows his face to hers.
He doesn’t look at her tears, allows her gaze to travel
to the ceiling above her bed. Only we invade her privacy.
He says nothing. Not one prayer or word of comfort.
We give him a fifty, and wonder.
Some begin to mutter; one man asks what he did.
He tells us that at that late stage she had no voice left,
so he took her sins upon himself,
allowing her to pity him for all he carried.
Sin-Eater is © Jessica Traynor
Letters from Mount Fuji
From the top of Mount Fujiyama I send you letters,
written on square pages, then folded
in as many different patterns as a snowflake.
I drop them onto thin air; watch them fall into the world.
Open one. In it is a picture from your childhood.
You can look at it, but it melts in your hand
like the question I ask you, caught on a breeze,
and your answer, taken by the river to the flat sea.
Even through this constant, year-devouring snow,
I will always send you letters.
Letters From Mount Fuji is © Jessica Traynor
Pearls at Blackfriars
For his Winter’s Tale,
Master Shakespeare calls
for a covered stage
with the scent of candle-grease
and orange-peel heavy on the air.
There must be torches
to give movement to shadows
and life to the statue;
and for Hermione’s face –
tincture of pearl, crushed.
With this bowl of dust
we’ll lacquer her age,
encase her in memory
so only a movement of the mind
might release her,
her husband’s transgression,
as the jealous moon
flings her light
against Blackfriars slates.
Pearls At Blackfriars is © Jessica Traynor