DARK ANGELS OF HIGHGATE
Enough Angelina, drop the bouquet of harebells.
The flowers wilt as your graying hands stiffen. See, how grave
is our newborn son. We gift him a black crêpe layette.
Say Darling Edward, say, Golubushka, make me come alive.
Leave this chapel, return to his cradle, quicken your deadwood.
Come, rock his sweet little boat, croon, sladkiy bairdark.
Your shade sighs as the mourners trudge into the dark
of All Hallow's Eve. A breeze stirs the hairs on my nape. Bells
toll, the ringer incants “Unto the Church, I do You call, Death
to the grave will summon all.” Freshly turned gravel
rolls from the burial mound, the earth’s answer to life’s
reticence. Our son, whom I cradle, mutely lays.
See, the ground moves. There, there, my boy. Love's only mislaid.
Father, Mother, take the babe, go, shield him from Highgate’s darkness.
I stay. By will alone, I'll not let maggots deface beauty that lives.
My Angel, please, tug the cord housed in your coffin so the bell
will ring, rouse London’s rigor. You will waltz on this grave,
speak of Siberian winters, then scoff, roll eyes at the vigor of death.
Insubstantial lips brush the babe’s forehead, even death
cannot stay her reply. Ed’ard, Mother will take him home to lie.
A chill north wind rises as if to show your sorrow from the grave,
clawing the headstone with twigs and pebbles; clouds darken
the moon. Your shade screams; a bough whips Mother's cheek, the bell
on its gold cord is silent. Wind nigh swallows my howl, Angelina, live!
We are alone, Angel, save for those cemetery ravens which liven
roan weeds. Three nights I've troubled Highgate, plucking deadheads
from your boney wreath. Obstinate wife, revive the grieving bell.
I hear them calling Ed’ard, Come. I am torn from your stone: waylaid,
outnumbered, locked in our bedchamber. At the next darkening,
the babe's rattle rings, calling your name. I escape to your grave.
Nightclothes drenched and shoeless, I topple onto the grave.
Yea though I walk … ring, damn you, bell, ring! Curse this life!
The sky cracks open, sheet lightning pierces the craven darkness
as if in answer a mother oak’s limb shatters. The deadweight
crushes me against the granite angel where you lay.
At sunrise, church bells rang Angelus prayer from the chapel’s belfry.
Angelina, Angelina, our grown son visits our grave to honor the dead.
He is our true afterlife; all my fears have been allayed.
All is too calm and well 'til his eyes darken as he batters your bell.
Collaboration by Cyndi MacMillan and Debbie Guzzi
Stanzas 1, 3 ,5 and 7 by Cyndi MacMillan
Stanzas 2, 4, and 6 by Debbie Guzzi