Unconsecrated Ground, poems by Jack Grady
American-born Jack Grady is a founder member of the Ox Mountain Poets, based in Ballina, County Mayo, Ireland. He considers himself to be a sort of Rip Van Winkle of poets in the sense that he returned to writing poetry in 2014, after a ‘long sleep’, that is, a hiatus of many years, some of which were passed while working in the Middle East. His poetry has been widely published and has appeared either online or in print in Live Encounters Poetry and Writing; Crannóg; Poet Lore; A New Ulster; The Worcester Review; North West Words; Mauvaise Graine; Outburst Magazine; The Runt; The Galway Review; Algebra of Owls; The Irish Literary Times; Skylight 47; The Ekphrastic Review; Dodging the Rain; Mediterranean Poetry; and in the anthologies And Agamemnon Dead: An Anthology of Twenty First Century Irish Poetry; A New Ulster’s Voices for Peace; Poetry Anthology Centenary Voices April 2016; 21 Poems, 21 Reasons for Choosing Jeremy Corbyn; A New Ulster’s Poetry Day Ireland Anthology 2017; Poesia a Sul 1; and 300K: Une anthologie de poésie sur l’espèce humaine. He read in Morocco at the 3rd annual Festival International Poésie Marrakech, as the poet invited by its committee to represent Ireland, and he was invited to represent Ireland at the 3rd annual Poesia a Sul, in Olhão, Portugal. His poetry collection, Resurrection, was published in Belfast by Lapwing Publications and launched in October 2017 and is available at Jack Grady – Lapwing Store.
The following four poems are from a work in progress, entitled Unconsecrated Ground, in which Bathshua (a.k.a. Bathsheba) Spooner speaks from within and around her undiscovered grave. Despite the fact that she was pregnant, she was hanged in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1778, for instigating the murder of her husband.
Bathshua Spooner Observes the Poet as a Young Boy
I see someone looking,
though he does not know what he seeks.
Perhaps in time he will chase the storm of my life;
even find the fading rays of its rainbow.
But the treasure that is buried beneath
will remain unclaimed.
That one looking is a boy,
grown from a seed in a womb,
and he was born, unlike the one
who sleeps with me on this hill.
That boy in the water below
does not know he is watched by me
as he floats in that pond,
that amnion of a warm summer womb,
but he stops, stands, and looks up once again.
Am I wrong?
Does he sense from the trees he is seen?
Does he perceive the presence
of this mother and her smile
in the silence of my leaves?
Bathshua’s Abode of Unconsecrated Ground
No Head of Death with wings
carved into a stone for me.
No epitaph proclaiming
that I once lived
and that we all must go
to an eternal sleep. I speak
to you from a forgotten grave
and never since found,
where what is left
of my bones in this soil
caress those of a life never allowed,
a boy who never once breathed,
his life aborted on the scaffold with me.
For two hundred years and more,
unconsecrated ground has been
both cradle and grave
for the son of my sin.
Bathshua Reflects on Becoming One with the Mother
Now that I am dead, I know
the folly of believing
we can stop a body
from becoming one
with Earth, our Mother,
and stopping what comprised
our organs and cells from returning
to our first womb, Her sea.
’Tis both vain and fruitless to sheath
a body with a coffin, as if planed wood
or even a stone sarcophagus could
withstand forever the bludgeons of time.
The coffin in which my corpse was placed
splintered and rotted soon enough,
and beetles and worms laboured at the chore
of ushering my carcass along.
From my decomposed limbs,
I have grown into rhizomes and roots
for fattening petals and leaves.
I have toughened furrows in the bark of elms
with marrow from my backbone,
and the emery of my breath
has polished the beech
into the hint of a pewter sheen.
When the maple bleeds its sap,
I, too, flow from the tap;
and my memories of my children
are the part of me that makes
that tree’s syrup so sweet.
I have thawed with ice
in an early spring and travelled
with the runoff into streams,
then into rivers and oceans
where I enriched the bellies of fish.
I have evaporated
with sea water in summer’s heat
into a cloud gestating with rain,
and from there I have watered
this hill that conceals
what is left of my son’s remains.
Bathshua’s Dreams of a Secret Lover
I had reason enough to loathe the man I married,
thus there was no delight in our bed for me.
I found his touch so revolting
that for a time I seemed to have lost
all taste for anything carnal, even in dreams.
But then I would meet a man,
handsome in person, gallant in address,
who would excite my immodest interest
to an immoderate degree,
and I would urge my heart be still;
but I would indulge in shameful fantasies
of myself as his pleasure, his sin,
where his passion would rise to such a pitch
he would cease to be gentle and tame;
he would become as unbridled as a bull
in a meadow full of heifers in heat.
And, when my husband came to bed at night,
I would insist he extinguish every flaming light.
When he ravished me then,
I would envision him as that man
of my lustful dreams. This all seemed a harmless
means of escape to me, this dalliance
of my mind with a man I had met only once,
for it was a sin in thought, not in deed.
But, where we sin in deed, we first sin in thought.
And, to more sinful deeds, Fate
and my thoughts would lead.
© Jack Grady