Below Hekla

Selima Hill

I appear like a bird from nowhere.
I have a new name.
I am as clean as a whistle.
I beat the buttermilk in big while bowls
until it is smooth.
I wash the pearly plates under the tap,
and fifty canvas bumpers and fifty socks.
They drip in the sun
below grey mountains like the moon’s.

Each night I lift the children
in their sleep and hold out
the china pot for them:
‘Wilt thu pissa, elskan,
pissa, pissa’ I whisper
as I tiptoe from bed to bed ...
Around midnight,
I go to the geysir below Hekla
and bathe in the warm water.

I am a short fat English girl.
I am twenty-five mothers.
I lead my children in a line
across the heather to the church.
The father watches me
from his dark door.
He shakes his head,
and takes me by the hand:
‘Blessa thu, elskan, blessa thu!’

And now, September,
dust is flying: the bus is here.
I am ready.
I am on my way to Reykjavik,
Leith, Liverpool ...
The children of the Barnaheimilid
are running to the gate like hens.
‘Goodbye, blessa thu,
give our love to the Beatles, goodbye ...’