A Close Prayer

Alex Wardrop

A bright red quilt, red riding
my back wrapped with your hand
me down, unchosen
mad blood linen and red
wool sewn holy knots, a wolf 
in the bed, with wooden needles
for crosses, penitently dressed
as death.

I wear this guilt, a relic 
patchwork of time, lost
mother tongues and resolute 
survivor of the cost
of redemption. An empty pietà,
exempting the mother with the son,
it was done long before, I know
the score, hands red with dust

blood of the living dead
or dying the whole of life 
and white, while you and I
were tying knots in cloth
and fighting, dyeing crimson,
reverently like your hair, and blue,
like you – o holy mother –
so blue you lost

your colour. I carry red
instead. Stories in tears, ring
cycled, cried, dried, untold
choruses of Wagner and violins,
violence spun with love, it was never

your guilt, wrapped around me, new
born fire in mid-winter rain 
born a little dead, yet
still screaming, refusing 
incubation in the plastic folds
of love and self

hate, perhaps too late
I scream still alive 
and dead always 
red and reading
the fault lines of your face,
in a tongue I can’t translate.

The quilt is open now and bleeding,
no thread can sew our backs
together.  We cracked. Silent
underfoot we tread blood 
glass smashed 
by past too present
and needed.

The fault was never
mine, or yours, or theirs,
or time. Broken
bottle spilt memory spilt error
spilt forgiveness, spilt guilt.

And we are what we were,
fine, when faced with gods
we cry love, and accident.
but there is no pain
left to feel this time.

The spool unreels
this now forever and
too real, a thread
numb with the dread
of angels 
and saints
and icons.

Hand me down scraps
I wrap around my back
to keep me warm
even if red, like you 
Never said, is colder
than the dead.

Alex is a public sector worker, mama and allotment fan. She writes for solace. Recently she’s explored sound as a way of writing and produced a podcast play for broken things and knitting that can be found here. She’s also sometimes on Twitter or Instagram as @wolfleece.