The always inspiring Liz at Exploring Colour
introduced me this week to this beautiful drawing by Jean Mackay of Drawn In,
a sketch revolving around the various stages in the basket making process. Liz hinted there could be tales uncovered within the shadow and light of the sketch and, after an initial look this week qnd finding a certain nostalgia mixed in amid the delicate pencil strokes, this is the story that unfolded for me…
Before they break the bread they make the baskets,
hands twisting like roots turning, finding the source
beneath the soil; finding the form between the fingers
fixing, wondering if knots can hold, if what is born
can bind and hoping that what they make might mend.
And she saw the fine filigree of her grandmother wave
from within the weave, remembered how it felt to be
entwined into a hold that held so much heart, the smell
of those hands now her smell, her scent, her hands
finding form as the circle turned into something greater,
broader; wider, darker, not all twists can be unturned,
wicker bends and leans in as if to whisper and falls away
and under and she wondered how it might find its way
back as the other laughed, the giggling girls with their long
skirts over skin already stained, looking for ways to twist
out of their own tales, platted into tatters too soon.
Maura gave birth to a Saint Bridgits Cross that day,
wove her worries into a fallen belief, soaking her swollen
aches with the reeds in the water that would never warm.
Brenda bore her basket like a baby, fragile folds
and tucks and wrapped the rim carefully like covering
a blanket neath the chin of a child she would never forget.
Before they broke the bread they made the baskets
the babies would be placed in, each reed drowned
in a river that ran from their fears, ties never attached,
hope never to be held while behind them, resplendent
after lashings and splicings, the black winged women
cawed over the faithful feathers they wore as robes
as their beaded hands prayed for the sinners now
servants for the so-called stains of their skin.
And she watched, as she weaved wicker through
the wicked world, in a convent grown cold,
in a kitchen to clean, those witnesses of judgement,
the untouched sisters of seeming servitude, religious
reeds never bent by other hands, folding only
to an unseen force, foreign to the feeling of other flesh,
twisting their rosary around their faultless fingers
as she turned the reeds around the coming regret
of being born and borne away to never come back.
Before they broke the bread they made the baskets,
before they broke their hearts, they buried all hope in their broken waters.
Audio version available on Soundcloud;
All words by Damien B. Donnelly
Artword by Jean Mackay of Drawn In, https://jeanmackayart.com/
Encouragement by Liz at Exploring Colour