daughter – by Lisa Reily

in the twist of my arm, her presence;
i can see her hand, feel the movement of her hide.
eyes cloudy in the mirror, the blue of death;
i’m scared, she said.
i know.
my mother’s body braided into mine,
the mottled skin she dreaded, chicken-foot fingers,
she lives in me, underneath my skin.
my father recognised her there,
watched us cut and cook together,
her bloody silhouette staring at him from the sink.

stories ingrained into limbs, organs heavy,
feet that cannot walk or run, i hold a narrative of family, people,
waiting to be shed;
my throat stiff from silence, loved and hated at once,
a message uncoiled, and i was no longer.
we’re such bitches, my aunt used to say, the three of us;
i wondered if i was.

night river, silent passage,
a glistening obol in her hand, not in her mouth,
my mother; i watch her leave in a boat.
flesh and bone and scales of clan, birds with no feet or nests,
gagging on pills and stomachs pumped;
my hands rest on the cool of stainless steel.
you will find me in the trees, she said.
but i cannot.

hall creaking, muttering words,
let me be, she whispered,
talons scratching fire, morsels she could not swallow;
words hidden.
there was a little girl, who had a little curl;
i wasn’t meant to be here.
buried underground, cold bricks of stone,
sand, dank air and mud,
my white feet dirtied, frozen blue,
a dream breathed unbroken in an empty house,
he held me, water rising; and i have lived this over.

a lock of my father’s hair, dark and soft,
trapped in a red-ribboned box;
silver spoons with tiny rose handles
stuffed into a stranger’s bag,
a coin wrapped in cloth, and in a leather case, binoculars.
i gulp muteness, watch
a lonely figure sweep leaves in the driveway,
and blocking the doorway, a boy,
who once put his hands on me.

mouth open, a tiny bird expectant,
falling from nests and trees, i smash through buildings,
choke on clouds, scramble through my body,
but she is gone;
skin rising, falling, i struggle under it,
smothering blood and vein,
heart and lung, barely breathing,
running through doorways, flying underground
in tunnels and railways and mountains,
rolling into work and men, and success,
a random feather fused to my chest;
we’re bitches, my aunt would say, the three of us.

my father, fixed, observing from an aeroplane,
blaring sun, a pattern, a map,
a woman repeating words by heart:
there was a little girl, who had a little curl;
blood red into the heat of a day that’s done,
my skin shed, roll upon roll
of cling-film plastic; the winter sky seeps into me.
chicken feet in a shiny basin,
trees move in the wind, but i cannot hear them.
eyes cloudy in the mirror, the blue of death;
i’m scared, i say,
but only shadow escapes his mouth.

Lisa ReilyLisa Reily is a former literacy consultant, dance director and teacher from Australia. Her poetry and stories have been published in several journals, such as Amaryllis, London Grip, The High Window, Panoplyzine, Riggwelter and The Fenland Reed. You can find out more at lisareily.wordpress.com