Easter field blessing: division

                    we go with father to the fields we hold small crosses 
of hazel and paper ribbons and holy water (in plastic
bottles) our dogs run along fat with shiny fur
they scare foxes from between the birches
father pushes the cross into the stony ground bloody flysch he says
and I think that in a few months in the August heat
we’ll be harvesting wheat here (it is here that father will first
tell us about death he’ll put on it the mask of the forest)
down in the village the church bells ring we return from the last field each of us tries to hold father’s attention on herself
in the light of a tall bonfire I consider the way we divide him between us: uneven unjust

matters of the forest: diagnosis

                    at the start I spoke to you
                    as to animals but when your questions
                    turned uncomfortable I watched
                    you more carefully
I thought I’d show the one first to ask about the matters of the forest everything with precision till first blood

face: painting lesson

                    near the forest died father’s old friend
                    we used to visit him in winter his hands resembled 
the claws of a bird of prey he poured onto clay saucers
honeydew and clapped seeing our faces sticky with sweetness
he whispered because as father claimed in his throat
settled evil so if we were to pray we should pray for his throat
and against what lived there
he gave me my first bees father says while we walk
up the fields to touch his hand one last time
in the cold room I’m peering at the dried face of the friend of my father I’m thinking of death’s painterly ambition how it brings forth shadow how cautiously it selects colour

June: blood

                    I find my sister in the kitchen her head bent over the sink 
from her nose streaks dense blood the red line leads
across the floor to the sofa I push back her forehead
with a kitchen cloth wipe her mouth
father enters the hall with a bleeding hare takes my sister’s face into his hands I see the blood
of the animal and the blood of my sister mix

inventory: birth and slaughter

                    whitewashed wall of the cowshed turns into father’s notebook 
with a drafting pencil he jots down dates of the insemination
of the cows he counts the animals coming and going
in the evening we take a heifer to a bull father chooses the one near the forest the Swiss Simmental breed
the bull seems enormous from his nostrils dangles a cast-iron ring
I ask father if he won’t break the cow he’s gentle father assures
the boys who live near the forest take me to the barn to its doors
where they have nailed toads we’re praying
to them
they say bowing deep to the amphibians