The Dyer's Hands

Mara Adamitz Scrupe (Philadelphia, USA)

Liz Berry: Lush, complicated, richly written and intense. Every time I read this I discovered something new.



The Dyer’s Hands


          I would have lingered my mouth
moving nothing coming        when shame
meant something       I would have
           pressed my palms      to stone

I would have prayed over beatified
bones: a femur or     a little finger     of St Paul
           of Padua a tapestried field/ pigments gilts
and hues singularly      unreiterably

enflowered    I would have tramped mountain
          meadows waded briny tides filled
my sacks full of sea snails’ cobalt tint
         clutched my roots        bruised

tubers and sorrows and though a secret
I would have bought a thousand
indulgences     begged even more just in

case    the echo of my
          entreaties/ indigo        my pleas/
crimson           my guilts/ rusted iron filings
          fleeing up the chiaroscuro -

framed firmament/ a vault/ a dome/
           caritas in an anonymous sky    from which
I would have summoned a wren
           or something like it/ kept it/ flown it

in a filigreed cage      I would have mastered
          the cloth dyer’s trade:
heat soak stir strain;            weld yields
yellow             madder/ red           woad

makes blue I would have woven and
          tatted        printed shallow
patterned sprays from
          flaxen dyers rocket     sunburst

xanthoria lichens      deep pleats caught/ shook
droplets wrung out reeking of stale
         mordant/ urine bound/ my yardgoods

          and in my hearthless smoke
kitchen I would have mashed marrow
          for supper       stewed
                    an ancient chamois’ tenderest

flesh broke stale loaves to crumbs mixed
with herbs and seeds to stuff my feast in flax
           and poppy in my wedded
wood I would have remade of a world

           of churchy sin a wilderness chiding
in its praise but fair     at its brittlest
           turn     I would turn it over


           and in my hands a sculptor’s hands
a farmer’s hands I would cry my thickest
           yip and bay and slip      away
of umbra siege or tarry coming          coming

coming for my plums my blackthorn sloes
headed toward the pear trees          in offhand
meander          passing the house passing
           behind the boxwood allée

down the bluff          nearest the growing
           the ripening a dog would scare off
but that thing don’t give a damn it squints me
out the corner of its eye           strolls

like a teenager slow and idle           nearby
           a pickup       headlights off full moon
refulgent        a man slings a rifle up
          to his shoulder


          I would orchard           neither offense
nor ordinance but cultivate brute creation/ I would
          push back the unwild interloper
neither my discernment nor my will

nor my hominid tools and implements
           would check me for I would scorn
the huntsman for the hunted            coywolf
stiff-necked in a coil trap      shot between

          the eyes point-blank for seventy-five
bucks and a picture in the local/ head to strung - up
hindquarters rather I would return you to what’s
         yours come back again don’t

don’t               abandon your burrow empty your
lair but brawl with me this brief passage
           towards some holier communion without
           lure or snare        or bait

or bounty enjoin me beyond the human
          unhearable as fellow beast to             listen
heed the furred brush the grassy whish
the snap - branch lapse and revel furl and     burst

          the predator’s caress in one furcated
breath            still I will be custodian of the collective
          untamed/ enemy of intentional amnesia
in as much as I’m lesion on this land      hubris’

living stele a glaze pink rose snowed under
           a blown glass bell       a splintered mingle
           a mystery       of delight and
delicacy darkness and woe      an adaptive

savage casting shadows         as well a shell
 - encrusted cave a threnody to the fugitive
glade to the going       going             a dirge
to animal scat in the lane shed fresh glistening

           heap - wove and thicketed run ragged as god’s
good creation             in flight          in my looking -
glass    in these trades these harvests          the dyer’s
                     hands are always         stained









poem © Mara Adamitz Scrupe