By: Veronica Ashenhurst
Bulwark: To Jane Eyre
My walls, brick and plaster, stand pitiless.
So, I covet the far horizon, as did
Rochester’s wife, groaning in her windowless
Third-story room. But my infirm hips
And legs can’t take me anywhere, only
Muddling across the still hall, far from
That turquoise line of beckoning, where sky
And earth embrace. I’m scared the arctic tern
Caged in my ribs will break its wings over
A view it cannot see, while walls close in.
Still, here’s Jane Eyre, hardback. Heroine,
I search your thoughts and fire and self-respect.
I’ll read until the ceiling floats; we will
Mutiny against fate today, and soar.
Yearning had become a foreign tongue
Recalled in crumbs. Want, at dawn, of another’s
Warmth, pulse, while I turned over, playing dead.
The light bent, then, clandestine. Air spoke
Through the window screen, brushed my ankles,
Caressed my scar— “Who are you?” asked the wind.
“I am breath, like you,” I said, in the blank,
Sunlit space between pallor and flush,
Sickness and forgetting, where the coiled
Helix of a bloom could finally unfurl.
Breeze that never saw my cane, its azure
Voice lingering, then away to places
I will one day go in dreams—to the
Elephant-skinned oak, to stars like open hands.
Dreams and the Hyena
–for S.M., in friendship
In youth, you and I were long-legged antelope:
Soaring springbok, eyes starred with prospect,
While bronze butterflies shone among our herd.
Sure that we belonged, we stotted—backs arched,
Nimble, and danced two meters through the air.
We ate flowers, grew dreams. The world was ours.
Then hyena singled us from the herd.
We ran, were mauled by those bone-cracking
Teeth, and swift illness dragged us from our peers—
Thinking we had died; you and I, newly cold.
Yet we live, but apart from others, clawed,
Limbs stiff, disjointed bearing. So, when you
Celebrate a milestone, I think of how
Fragments, once whole, once winged, still gleam.
Veronica Ashenhurst has published poems in Breath and Shadow, Uppagus, and Wordgathering. She is a member of the Law Society of Ontario, in Canada, and her articles on legal education have appeared in the Dalhousie Law Journal, the Ottawa Law Review, and the Canadian Legal Education Annual Review. She lives with severe Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS).
Oh, my goodness, what extraordinary poetry! Absolutely, breathtaking.
These are heartbreakingly beautiful poems.