The Bonnie Banks of Fordie

by Em Strang

Before them there were no other women,
only the wind in their hair
only the wind in their dresses,
and if they cover the ground
with their shade, it’s all
for the flowers: loosestrife, iris,

Three sisters with the river
in their limbs, white arms
like the strong necks of swans,
bare-legged, bootless,
and one of them is singing
into the vortex of trees,
voice like a leaf.

There’s no knowing why he comes
only the flash of his coat
on the windy banks and the flash
of his eyes, the white cloth
of his shirt fair torn at the throat.

Afterwards, his shirt quite red,
he comes to the third and she shuns him.
The knife like a fish in his hand
and on his shoulders
his long loose hair.

It’s when she speaks his name
he remembers
the way the flesh parts
by his own white hand.

The wind lumbers down the bank
like a drunk man
or a man overfull with waking.

The third one takes her brother’s knife,
wipes it quite clean. The wind
whistles a song in the river.
The grass is soft and green.


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