the dance

one day the woman awoke
feeling strange.

like a silk rope threaded through her flesh
or the way a mountain tremors beneath the running of buffalo
or like falling, as a sand dune crumbles.

it wasn’t a new feeling, exactly,
but a subtly creeping sensation
that had started in her hips the night the fire turned green
and tingled its odd way
across her body
weaving a map
that was different
to the one she knew before.

today, the wind was singing
and its song was one of
restlessness. the woman
rose from her sheepskin bed
and began
to sway. softly, at first,

just a this way

and a that way

until she caught the rhythm
of the wind’s song.


the next day the woman awoke
feeling stranger.

like a flock of starlings in a paper bag
or a giant’s foot holding down a volcano
or a bursting, like an over-ripe plum as it hits the dry ground.

today the wind was a song a breaking open.

the woman reached her arms high
and brushed the rafters of her small home.
she bent low
and examined layers of
grimy grease and
spilled coffee, spilled beer,
dog hair,
and all the rest.

she turned to the west, to the fire, to the safe, dark warmth of the hearth.

she turned to the east, to the open door, to the sun and the wind and the sea.

she turned to the north, to the bottles and jars, the pots and pans.

she turned to the south, to the small desk, the weary loom.

in the centre of the room
the woman danced her strange feeling
in a forward
side to side
meeting the walls of her hut.


the following day the woman awoke
to silence.

she lay on the soft, dirty sheepskin in the half-light of dawn.

she tasted the ribbon of woodsmoke.

she smelled the old bundles of dried herbs.

she watched the slow breaking of sunlight on to the rafters, a flock of crows circling outside the window.

she held them all close
as she drank her tea
her face in the steam
her left knee bobbing
then her right
picking up the beat
that was quietly thudding between her hips. there was no wind.

into the fire she poured her jars of
oat straw
and hops. the fire made no sound, nor did it
when she fed it
old letters and candle ends.

from the eaves
she took down sheaves
of mugwort and yarrow
fennel and mallow
and wove them carefully
onto the loom.

all the while, she moved to the beat that thrummed in her gut.

the woman tied her best blanket to her back
and packed a small bag.
oil of rose,
nettle seed,
a kettle and a cup,
a biscuit for the dog,
and a smouldering log from the fire, wrapped
in a scrap of leather.

she stepped outside into an unfamiliar stillness.

her foot landed noiselessly on the scrubby, sandy grass of the cliff-top.

she scraped salt from the front window
catching it in her bag.

then she walked to the back of the beach hut
and kicked off the brakes.

she stood back to back with her home and leaned into its familar, weathered boards.

she leaned harder and remembered how she had arrived soaked and hungry and gabbering like an auctioneer and how the hut had held her and rocked her.

she leaned still harder, and thought of how she had oiled the rusty door and brought candles and woven rough grass rugs to show her gratitude.

she leaned all of her weight into those tough old boards and began to step her feet backwards,
one, then
the other,
to the rythm
in her guts
in her legs
in her arms
in her chest
and the wheels of the beach hut creaked and turned
and the wind arrived, gently, lifting her hair, and easing the load, catching her own beat with its song
and together the woman and the wind heaved the hut slowly forwards.

at the cliff edge, the woman cried hold! and the wind dropped.

she ran up beside her old beach hut
and stroked its rough, flaking walls the way you would rub an old horse,
cooing and murmuring
a song of goodbye.

she set down her last biscuit for the dog,
then she shoved her hips hard against the wooden wall
rocking and rocking, over and over
until finally it went
and she watched the little wooden hut
vanish into the hungry maw of the sea.