“Quiet woman” and Other Poems, by Eva Gerretsen

Quiet woman

I know your kind
agitating for imagined spaces
and the near flow of clever thoughts

quiet woman used to bother me
please, I would whisper 
the voice itself skittish ticks
please - 
taut and simple 
quiet woman shot through the very heart of him

quiet woman is fresh-landed
making soft orbits 
face like baited lines
quiet woman is so small
so easy to pick up and carry into bed

quiet woman bothered me into a taxi backfiring
scream into pipe down love into shut up you’re making a 

quiet woman has perfect sentences 
and a knack for propagating shame
her cuttings sharp
gaps in the hills
cuttings of flesh and blood

I imagined at lengths
how quiet woman’s grace 
might be disturbed

the daydreams lingered on
waiting for the 142
catching sight of her as she squats on the wet asphalt
shitting herself


daughter, she said 
tracking mud 

follow but mind your sister’s broken jaw
thrust lopsided into her clavicle, some of her bacon still clinging on 

                                                                     never did watch where she was going

daughter, stick to the echelon 

because the odds are stacked against you 
as a dry stone pile needing fixing 

daughter, mind you are tupped with stronger stuff, 
more mileage in these synapses 

also luckier 

remember, keep close 
in unison
where the yolk is 
The story of peat 

In the first age of naming stars,
when the plough’s teeth were set to the earth, 
multiplying her miracles, 
a nymph lived alone in the forest.

Her life was simple mischief: 
stealing bread, stealing lovers, stealing clothes from the riverbank where 
women waded and cleaned their hair.   

She drove everyone, including the gods, into such frenzies;
crops wilted in the pounding sun, pigs swelled with disease and black blood leached out the eyes
of the draught horse, now lame, now dead. 

The nymph’s seduction had led many astray. She called them to open fields, 
to woodlands, to the river where,
who knows 
what happens in the secret reeds, that only rustle and sigh.  

She found the tender place in human hearts, where if she set her thumb
they would burst,
 and break. She knew, for she practiced with rabbits.   

Before long, an ear of corn was cut and placed on a large stone as an offering. 
Hear us, it said,
this nymph is our torture. The jealous gods eagerly bestowed their curses,
revenge came easily to them. 

One morning, in glorious high summer as the nymph dozed
the gods struck her. 
In an instant, her body lost its supple shape, began to rot, dripped, black and heavy, 
half decayed. Her matter damp. Her hair a tangle of sodden bracken. She tried to
reach out but her fingers were formless.  

Once she realised what had happened to her she wept
and became bog, 
became moor and
carried with her the stink of anger. 

The people rejoiced and remained faithful. The animals eagerly took to the fields and the women were no longer afraid to bathe by the river.  

But trickery was in her nature, and it didn’t matter the body she inhabited. 

Some nights
when, drunk with love and fearlessness, young couples would lose their way on the bog 
she would be there to catch them, 
to sink them into her forever.  

My name is Eva Gerretsen and I currently write and work in Glasgow. I have written for The State of the Arts and sometimes publish zines as Snitch publishes.

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