Every time a skull is found
their pretty daughter walks into their minds.
Strange, that in every season there should be a time for this.
Rain turns wheeltracks into breaking clay
the wind lifts a blanket of leaves
the loud-voiced sun
counts and names
these cruelties of bone.
And every story flickers and judders
around what they don’t know.
It’s past the time of mattering
if it is her or not
they are all her, and so unlike her
she is lost in the gap between.
Now is the time
for the careful stetting of clocks
to rein the day and make it pace
from hour to hour, evenly, with no surprise.
They bend their minds to how each little thing
stacks up to make an ordinary day
and practise living as they were
when she was only eight, and ran away from home
with a tied red bundle on a stick.
Till she came back
they didn’t even know she’d gone.
This poem first appeared in Orbis no. 116/7, Srping/Summer 2000.