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March 02nd 2009 print

Olivia Byard

On Hearing of Claire’s Death

I thought of onions first: how she taught

me when the best ones would be in,

tuned, as she was, to the seasons’ rhythms;

how when we watched new piglets

with their tiny snouts, she confided

she’d cried when her first ones

returned cold from the abattoir,

but had toughened up since

and planned to teach children

about farming.

Then with money tight and those dreams

on hold, she followed her boyfriend

to his parents’ Welsh farm—

just five months ago,

and I befriended this gap-toothed butcher

now anxiously watching me

beside the eggs I had been checking,

because life goes on, except

on the dark side of risk and chance

with its landscape of brake-screams,

crazed lights, crunch.

My basket slipped down and I cried;

then drove home under an ordered sky.