A Christening

By Tom French

Come, Eurycleia, move the great bed outside the bedroom that he himself built and make it up with fleeces and blankets and brightly coloured rugs.
— The Odyssey, Book 23

The night he left I left the night light
on all night, and took the stool we used
to climb up into the high bed up with me,
remembering the night we christened the bed —

his head whacking off the headboard,
me moist as a slipway, hard welts nested
in the softness on his palms hard against me,
the stink of resin rising off him, the taste

of it on the fingers he slipped into my mouth,
our wedding linen sticky with it, green leaves
everywhere and autumn weeks away,
warm draughts of night heat wafting up

between the struts, him whispering how
he loved my big belly like a full sail,
the thwack of stiff cloth against the mast,
the print of bed timbers through the mattress

on my back when we tacked and he steered
me round. And I remember the haft of an old oar
he sawed in half to wedge the makeshift bed
against the gable, it slipping free and the bed

feeling as if it was stealing off into the night.
Holding him inside me, afraid to breathe,
I knew the one thing anchoring us then
was the one free arm I’d wound around

the branches. And I could think of no good
reason why I should hold on. So,
when he had me where he wanted me
and I had him, I told him to batten down his hatches.

And I let go.

Credits

Reproduced by kind permission of the author and The Gallery Press, Loughcrew, Oldcastle, County Meath, Ireland, from Midnightstown (2014).