Without Regret By Eleanor Wilner

Nights, by the light of whatever would burn:   
tallow, tinder and the silken rope
of wick that burns slow, slow
we wove the baskets from the long gold strands   
of wheat that were another silk: worm soul
spun the one, yellow seed in the dark soil, the other.

The fields lay fallow, swollen with frost,   
expectant winter. Mud clung to the edges
of our gowns; we had hung back like shadows
on the walls of trees and watched. In the little circles   
that our tapers threw, murdered men rose red   
in their clanging armor, muttered
words that bled through the bars
of iron masks: the lord
who sold us to the glory fields, lied.

Trumpets without tongues, we wove lilies   
into the baskets. When they asked us
what we meant by these, we’d say “mary, mary”   
and be still. We lined the baskets on the sill   
in the barn, where it is always dusk
and the cows smell sweet. Now the snow

sifts through the trees, dismembered   
lace, the white dust of angels, angels.   
And the ringing of keys that hang
in bunches at our waists, and the sound of silk   
whispering, whispering.
There is nothing in the high windows   
but swirling snow,

the glittering milk of winter.
The halls grow chill. The candles flicker.
Let them wait who will and think what they want.   
The lord has gone with the hunt, and the snow,   
the snow grows thicker. Well he will keep   
till spring thaw comes. Head, hand, and heart—
baskets of wicker, baskets of straw.
Eleanor Wilner, “Without Regret” from Reversing the Spell: New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 1997 by Eleanor Wilner. Reprinted with the permission of Copper Canyon Press, P. O. Box 271, Port Townsend, WA 98368-0271, www.coppercanyonpress.org.

Source: Reversing the Spell: New and Selected Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 1998)

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