For Alasdair Roberts

I remember the girl
with the hare-lip
down by Clachan Bridge,
cutting up fish
to see how they worked;
by morning’s end her nails
were black red, her hands
all sequined silver.
She simplified rabbits
to a rickle of bones;
dipped into a dormouse
for the pip of its heart.
She’d open everything,
that girl.
They say they found
wax dolls in her wall,
poppets full of human hair,
but I’d say they’re wrong.
What’s true is
that the blacksmith’s son,
the simpleton,
came down here once,
fathomed her, and bucked.
Claimed she licked him
clean as a whistle.
I remember the tiny stars
of her hands around her belly
as it grew and grew, and how
after a year, nothing came.
How she said it was still there,
inside her, a stone-baby.
And how I saw her wrists
blue-bangled with scars
and those hands flittering
at her throat,
to the plectrum of bone
she’d hung there.
As to what happened
to the blacksmith’s boy,
no one knows
and I’ll keep my tongue.
Last thing I heard, the starlings
had started
to mimic her crying,
and she’d learned how to fly.

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