“A Curved Path”, by Chris Murray

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.

Christine Murray

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

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