Say her Name
Not the physical boy but the masculine shadow,
cruciform over the family.
Sometimes I see his ageing
face, that stare, pained and cold
as a codfish. Is this how it was,
Uncle, the incessant hunger,
your mother’s belly, trial by fire?
And I think of his sister,
not the girl or the physical child
but some glint of a kid whose skin
glowed incandescent, crackled.
The sound of inferno.
Lay no more coals, they said,
just let her room grow cold.
Don’t say her name, Uncle,
for the pain of it – the shame of it –
in case your tongue should burn.
Leave that to the Coroner’s report.
‘Annie, aged 4, Accidental Death.
Condolences to the family’. A lifetime later I stand in her steps
and shiver, feel the chill wind
touch my spine here at the top
of the stairs where she once
stood and glowed dull red.