After they die, they will come back from those places of exile. They follow a curved path, they are meant to surprise us. I went to the doctor, I could not eat. There was a lump in my throat. I blamed a fig swallowed whole that day I made his last Christmas cake, it wouldn’t go away. It began weeks before his death, it persisted for years. Drowning every night in the contents of my stomach and feverishly dreaming that he was outside dancing, while I tended to my child. He was holding two orange tickets in his hand his dancing was manic. Sometimes he held a book, pointing, trying to show me pictures in it. The doctor asked me why I could not eat, although I made the most elaborate foods and I put them on the fanciest dishes. I concocted sauces, berry surprises, I drained red meats into steel bowls, dotted pomegranates into cakes, stuffed ducks with oranges and used red peppers in large quantities. Herbs and their uses dominated the scrubbed kitchen boards, and my mind. My answer surprised me. I could not eat because when I served food on the scrubbed boards of my table, I was serving funerary meats to my children from the body of my dead father. I found him on the table lying there supine. They would take their food from his stomach, his chest. I would not sit at table and instead I stood at the counter’s bleached scrubbed boards with lemon tea and maybe a piece of dry bread, my prison diet. The kids did not see him laid out when they picked up a piece of pie, or a biscuit hot from the oven. Maybe, they picked up a bit of burned black dough from its base, his chimney scrapings. If I could have prayed, maybe it would have been ok. I had to get to my skeleton, to see it jutting from my shoulders to understand the relation between food and grief. I made a feast that night, and all evening I watched them coming to the door to consume the foods I created, His funerary meats.
This poem was originally published in “All The Worlds Between; A Collaborative Poetry Project Between India and Ireland” Eds. Srilata Krishnan and Fiona Bolger (Yoda Press, 2017)
Chris Murray lives in Dublin with her children. She founded and curates Poethead, a website dedicated to platforming work by women poets, their translators, and editors. She is a member of Fired! Irish Women Poets and the Canon, a group that seeks to celebrate and draw awareness to the rich cultural heritage of Irish women poets through readings. Her most recent book ‘Gold Friend’ was published in Autumn 2020. (Turas Press, Dublin). Chris is currently archiving objects related to the canonical neglect of women poets at RASCAL, Queen’s University, Belfast, and she is working on a new book