My Mourning Clothes

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Wearing my mourning clothes
I buried my young Hope.
I’d found her that morning in the crib asleep—
Alas, the kind of sleep Dream’s sister brings
In the cloak of the dark.
Her soft eyes would not stir
Nor were her lips so blushing with breath
And her skin a white veil wore
Like a bride going to her wedding day.
And so wearing my mourning clothes
I brought my once so recently vital Hope
And laid her in the ground.

But I loved
And I loved and loved again—
The chance to bear another Hope all too great
To be resisted wisely.
I grew swollen when she came—
I grew engorged with the life of her
And held her close and breathed her in—
This is joy.

This, my second Hope—
Her fate just as her sister’s
I found her taken with such a fever
That no witchery could drive out.
But she slept so sweetly, and so I let her sleep
And found her pale and unwakeable
All bundled like a bean in the earth
Her long brown lashes lacy fans
Upon the bruised-soft skin beneath her quiet eyes.
No sleep this was so like her sister Hope before her
I took her in my mourning clothes
To lay the tiny pale bride in the arms of the earth her groom
And thus I laid her to her lasting rest.

But I loved
And I loved and loved again—
The chance to bear another Hope all too great
To be resisted wisely.
I grew swollen when she came—
I grew engorged with the life of her
And held her close and breathed her in—
This is joy.

And so upon me came a third small Hope
So soft and smelling milky sweet
In my arms hungry for her—
But…
this, this little Hope of mine…
She wept—always…
cries as shrill in the night
As rabbits shrieking at the fox’s teeth so that…
Sleepless, I sleep walk…
In the night, cloaked in dark
I am, dreaming, Dream’s sister…
There is no soothing such wailing, until I came to…
Her lips—her lips turned blue.
Her sweetest eyes, their whites all red.
Her cheeks, so swollen. So purple. Like a bruise.
And I—with these, my hands…
Carry her, my strangled Hope, in my mourning clothes—
To lay her in the ground.

Hesitantly, I wondered…do I love?
For another Hope to bear, do I love and love again?
And quietly, perhaps, unwisely…
Went again into love’s arms where, safe…
I grew swollen as she came—
Engorged with the life of her
And remembering a blue and broken Hope
Held her close and without pomp breathed her in—
My joy is nearest silence.

Such a little Hope, she came upon me silently.
Sweetly, she sleeps and her breath—
It was my lullaby.
And so, without my knowing, she began to grow.
Until such a night…
One cannot say how horrors come
Nor how strange the guise it is…
Who finds their way into my home?
What wretch who crushes such soft skulls?
And in silence…
A fox returned…
She, my little softest sweetest silentest of Hopes
All crushed and red
Once round and smelling milk-like now…
Like bleeding and retching.
So in my mourning clothes I took her out
And laid her in the ground.

How wide is this lake?
Where I find myself in mourning
Wearing my grey wool
And shadows in my eyes
And quivers in my throat
And screaming—
How hungry the maw of the earth?
Which swallows me
Hope after Hope
Every bit of me, every drop of me—
A blood unspilt
Drank greedily in the ground
And dreaming—
How stars are born…
And how gold born in suns
Finds its way into circlets on our fingers…
And how we are…what we are…
And everything I’ll miss
Is washed away by the rain—or under the sun.
What is this parting?
Where you fill to me this glass
And drink to my health, as I drink to your lover
And to our small collected Hopes
We spill a drop or two—
And call it even.

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