monument

By Euan Dawtrey
Photo by Isabel Mitchelson

I hadn’t seen a thicker mist.

Mist clung to the rims of our farmhouse

Threatening a cliff edge or boundless, unbroken land,

Or a stream, or a hill. I straddled

The gate looking out into the haze imagining

Shapes and movement in the static grey.

All I saw was nothings, shades of muffled brightness,

Incubated in a void of silence.

 

Behind me my father took his knife

From his coal bucket

I turned to witness

It letting off steam in the bitterness.

 

The cow breathed steam, the knife

Looked at the cow and breathed too.

She rose and fell, a thick vaporous haze

Warming the space around her nostrils.

As soon as the blade drunk the morning air

It’s breath trailed off in a dissipating

Plume. It’s body became cold and sharp.

 

Like the thin wind on my cheek.

Like the feeling of bare feet. 

 

As the knife was under the cow,

Slicing through soft underbelly with mysterious truth,

Opening the sticky entrails onto the frost tipped grass

Lying purple and breathing steam gory and smelling of

Acid and metal; the knife had definitely stopped breathing.

She stood upright for a few seconds

As she poured out of herself, her head still

Surrounded by the in and out of breath,

Until her eyes rolled and her knees buckled

Collapsing her frame into the blood mud frost.

 

I looked at the unmoving mass of flesh and bone,

That once was fire and water.

 

My father took the knife to the sink

Wetting the blade with water and cloth

Before placing it back into the coal.

Blood trails ran from his palm

Down his forearms sticking to his hair

His palms looked like they did when

He collected coal for fire, blood looked like soot,

He washed them the same,

In silence, methodical

Carefully joining his hands together

Under the steady flow of steaming water.

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© Helicon Magazine 2019

University of Bristol