Often there
in your river-surge
of voice,
like silt, like debris
through twisted roots;
I heard them
when in your deep-
throated discourse
you debated them,
sometimes with loud
or in a mere whisper.
I saw them
in your careful scrutiny
of my face, the sudden
shifting in your eyes,
a quick smile hidden,
not to be shared.

They were sent to bind
your heart, your tongue.
they loosed your brain
only for seasons.

But I know them now.
I do not fear them.
I am my grand-
mother’s child
and she was
a demon-fighting woman.
I heard her cry out
on her knees.
I saw her tarry
on mission-hall floors,
lips cracked from fasting,
until one day a
Heaven open,
hex gone
and look how
river flow free
with a clear shining.


from The Stone Gatherer (Peepal Tree, 2009), © Esther Phillips 2009, used by permission of the author and the publisher.

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