Miss World

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Miss World

Heather Derr-Smith

Four in the morning in the Schwenkfelder Church yard.
The stars ripple and lilt, slits of light, talismans.

My grandfather could name them all, incantations
in his “gigger” bag, scraps of paper, folds and scrolls

of protection. “Between thought and expression
lies a lifetime” sang Lou Reed from the scratching needle

of the record player in my room. I remember my grandfather
as kind and often silent, (a reflection of my father’s face

as the form of my father slipped deeper into fog, his eyes
evanescent as mist) bent double under my grandmother’s

schizophrenia, carrying her into the apiary, into the orchard,
bearing it on his back every day. The weight of the world

in a woman. When I went to London, he wrote these words
in Pennsylvania Dutch for me to carry, a prayer or a spell

called Himmelsbrief or Heaven’s Letter and pressed it
into the palm of my hand. I don’t know if it did any good

but how he meant well, with what love he knew. I left it behind
in my lover’s room in Chelsea, the day I saw a photograph

of Francis Bacon in a beaded flapper dress, Eton crop in his fist.
The caption said his father had him horsewhipped by the stable groom

when the artist was just a boy. A bomb went off behind the BBC
van in front of the pageant, Angry Brigade. The air rang

in its socket of silence, and I lost all balance, lifting by my hair
so that my feet could not touch the ground and neither could I see

the sun. It was a long time ago, and we all lived
to tell the truth, all of our scripture vanished into the underworld

of our childhoods. I do blame them all, all the men, both the ones
who robbed us blind and the ones who mirrored kindness,

all of them made us suffer. I survived, blowing up the door
of my womanhood, mopping up the world with blood.

Now it’s dawn in the Swenkfelder Church yard, nothing left of words

in this woman, burning from within like an arsenal lit,
unquenchable light of Heaven.

 

 

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