Afterwards I could not read

- not that I'd forgotten how,

but when I found the envelopes

of all the letters Papa sent,

and all the verses Mama wrote;


all the words I'd never read

and all the things I'd never seen,

strewn like rubbish on the ground,

I needed something to hold on to;

everything was slipping from my grasp...


Afterwards I could not dream;

for afterwards I never knew,

which was false or which was true;


or what was the joke...?


Afterwards I did not write,

not that I forgot my love,

but I was trawling through my grief,

searching for the fatal flaw,

that noiseless as a common thief,

had lured my lover from my side;


Afterwards I could not write; not that I'd forgotten how,

but searching through that scattered heap,

of scribbled notes and torn up pages,

slipped in secret through your door,

all I found were bits of letters,

scraps of rhymes and alphabets,

childish words you never saw,

silent cries you never heard,

hope I wasted, tears I shed,

believing if you only knew..!


Afterwards I could not write;

for afterwards I understood...


Afterwards I could not sow;

I could not sew a stitch,

not that I mislaid the thread,

but when I saw the pearly gown,

the lacy cloth that once she wore,

all torn and bleeding on the ground,

I needed something to cling on to,

when everything was slipping from my grasp...


And now I'm searching, searching everywhere.


I'm searching for the common thread

that weaves through all my lies;

that spins a patchwork alphabet

from my tangled mind,

but all I find are crumpled ribbons,

broken sequins, missing pearls,

a ball gown with a bloody hem,

a bedspread with a gaping hole,

and rose thread for my patchwork quilt,

not that I chose this madder shade,

no, but the colour ran like tears

and dyed my cotton all the same.


Afterwards I could not sew,

lest the colours drain her dry,

as round and round the flowers spread

spilling out their petalled threads;


but though I could not sew her name,

yet I still embroidered

each unspoken cry.


Afterwards, I could not say...


I'd been searching everywhere,

for a shaggy dogwood tree,

to cross with wild anemone,

whose roots are red madder rose,

while all that shows is folly green;


Afterwards, searching for the common theme,

that ran through all the tricks and jokes,

all I found was selfish greed,

jealous tantrums, thoughtless lies

and childish accusations tossed

like burning acid on my hopes.


Afterwards I never said... I never sewed her name.

I was searching for the common thread

that ran through all my lives,

that wove my frozen moments

into this web of time,

but all I found was broken cotton, 

bits of muslin, scraps of wool,

a dance card with a single name,

a sequin and a withered rose,

and piles of cut-up taffeta

and organdie and silk,

bright remnants with their edges cut

to make a patchwork quilt.


Afterwards I could not write. I could not write a line.

For I was always searching,

for my seedling child.


But all I find are curled-up petals,

broken stems and withered leaves,

and seedlings with their heads cut off

and prunings for the compost heap...


Oh why do you leave me searching here, trawling through my abc?

through angel plant and bleeding heart,

and blessed herb and baby's tears,

and columbine and madder weed,

for the tiny flying seed,

of my wild anemone;


And now I learn to sew again,

stitch by painful stitch,

lick by bloody lick,

for every time

a baby cries,


I give a jump

and prick myself;


Now I learn to cry again,

stab by bleeding stab,

wail by bloody wail,

for as I suck,

my injured thumb,

the umpteenth time,

my heart succumbs to baby's eyes

and I am one with baby's fate;


And as I sew,

I stitch my heart,

to every seedling pearl;

and as I stitch my heart becomes

a part of every thread, a part of every gem,

a part of every seed that grows;

then am I part of everyone

who ever sewed a stitch,

and part of every quilt,

and every bit of tapestry,

and stitching up of history,

and every band of seamstresses,

weaving visions greater than themselves...


Afterwards I could not sow,

not that I mislaid the seeds,

but when I saw the blackened earth,

the fertile soil where once they grew,

dumped like rubbish on the path;


when I saw the blazing wood,

the charcoal stumps, the burnt-up scrub,

the silent trees and dried-up streams,

a trickle where the river flowed

a bonfire where the folly stood,


I needed something to grab on to,

for everything was slipping from my mind... 


afterwards I could not grow;


I was searching everywhere,

for the wild rose madder tree.

I was searching for the memory,

that nourishes the madder seed,

that dyes the roses madder red;

that shows the seedling how to hide

in among the woodland weeds;


I was running, running everywhere

around the smoking heap of earth

where once I grew a seedling tree,

a rambling old wild madder rose,

scattering trails of smoking ashes

all the way to Deepton Wood. 


Now I try to write again,

and even as I try, I know,

it is a far, far madder thing I do,

than I have ever done;                  


Now I try to write again

word by painful word;

and as I learn,

my heart becames,

a part of every mark;

a part of every letter

a part of every drop of ink,

that ever stained a written page,

and I am part of everyone,

who ever wrote a line,

who ever held a pen;


Now I sow wild madder seed

in a shady madder wood

row by joyful row,

and as I sow

my rose is one

with every seed I sow,

with every bud that blooms,

with the dew on every petal,

and with every precious weed

that guards the madder tree;


As I dig my hands are one

with every hand that ever dug,

and as I plant my heart becomes

a part of every plant that grows

and part of every madder wood

that ever hid a madder rose.




From Mat's Folly  or  Being Mad Myself...

by Yvonne Jerrold



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