Helen Ferris
A Pilgrimage

A mother wakes to a starless sky,
work on her mind and in her bones.
She scrubs under soft water
with hands that are used to hardness.
She scrubs floors that will never look clean.
It is comfort that the coast is near,
the landlock of London left behind,
grey smothered by the light of home.
Sweat and salt are her second skin
as her children ask questions about war.
The window is a siren call and a threat.
A small drip from the ceiling sinks into the sheets.
An ant carries a fragment of leaf above itself,
greener than still rivers.

A boy returns to school after everything he owns,
everything he knows, has been destroyed.
His towerblock up in flames, his flat a home then gone.
Stinging knees scraped by the concrete,
glowing rubies crusted with dirt.
A girl glances down at her scuffed trainers,
the flapping soles drawing unwanted attention.
One of the boys says she flinches too quickly.
She doesn’t trust how he laughs.
Answers catch in her throat. She fears further questions.
On the way home, the wind whips through her hair
veiling her chapped, rosy face,
a futile barrier to the spitting rain.
They fall through the cracks because they are quiet.
Wherever they go the air is thick
and the chimneys breathe slowly
into guzzling lungs.

A curious mind finds menageries in the clouds.
A sturdy hand finds black diamonds underground,
moves staccato, while light is swallowed
by shadow. As music is pulled from her
The mother wonders
how many have ripped their hearts out
to provide comfort for another.