Flogholeth – a poem by Helena Marie

Modrep Wenna guides blade to board, chops  
onions, sets aside tetti shredded into silos. Mesmerised  
by her elbows, I watch her firm back, hard- 
earned arms, the jeans too young for an aunt  
to wear; sewn-on patch says Country Music.  
The room is silent save the sound of knife  
on wood. Go, she says, play outside, calls  
for my cousin, who buries bodies of animals that thwart  
her care, ribs the earth with hollowed bones,  
beneath the skyward steep back garden. We leave  
the quiet behind, shield our pale faces from  
summer, climb steps, always steps – 94 to lane from dreksel – 
until the ceaseless crickets fill the air. Here our socks  
are swallowed by grass, skirts hemmed in wild flowers. The world  
is high now, level with the Downs and Chapel Ground. Beneath  
us neighbourly ships and ferries smack against the quay, the mordros  
silenced. I follow her clever finger across Fore Street, stepped  
terraces and lanes, houses thrown down like brewyon left  
for gulls. See over there? Our gorhengeugh built those nans yw pell.  
Stolid, proud, crowning the hill’s prow, a mariner’s homestead,  
hugged by cottages on each side. For his myrghes, she says,  
though I’m sure I hadn’t asked. Behind us, the sun drips  
to the island’s morrep where our parents’ cousins  
courted, took borrowed boats across the porth. Past  
the seven-spanned bridge, train tracks are shadowed, leading  
nowhere now. Above, the arch our hendas – a boy who once  
pilfered apples – dared to dance across, placed his faith 
in hobnail boots. I am unaware of this yet; I know it drekkli,  
when I’m grown. For now, it’s nearly teatime. We turn, our ancestors  
around us, voices caught in sails and nets, singing off  
the whaling house, and kerdhes the field back home. 

Helena Marie is drawn to loss, place and the beauty of the everyday. She is of part-Cornish descent and lives in Berkshire, UK. Currently studying for a Masters in Creative Writing, her work as found homes in several anthologies and online. 

Glossary of Cornish words: Flogholeth: childhood / Modrep: Aunt/Auntie / Wenna: old Cornish girl‘s name / tetti: potato / dreksel: doorway or threshold / mordros: the sound of the sea / gorhengeugh: great, great, great grandfather / nans yw pell: a long time ago / brewyon: crumbs / myrghes: daughters / morrep: beach or shore / porth: harbour /hendas: grandfather or ancestor / drekkli: later (an unspecified amount of time) / kerdhes: walk. 

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