Who was she?




Image by Jaye Marie


Her eyes black beads, her face skeletal

Her bones lay in a crescent, the earth carefully swept aside.

The copper of a turning leaf lay beside her hand.

Dried berries, red once, now more like

the shrivelled eyes of a dead badger.

A thread of red cotton bound her wrists.

Who is she and how long has she been there?

Why has someone unearthed her?

Questions I cannot answer.

There was no sign of anyone

No markers to say this was an archaeological site.

There was no real reason for me to believe

that the bones were female.

the broken string of blue glass beads around her neck

gave me the she, rather than the he.

The church had stood there from the 1600’s

the graveyard, judging from the headstones longer.

How old were the uncovered bones?

I could not tell, not versed in the art of bone reading

I needed to find someone, let them know of my find.

Looking at my watch, it was late

The church doors locked, not yet fully dark.

I looked for somewhere the vicar might live.

Walking the length of the graveyard to the front gate

Across the road, one house had its lights on

Holding my breath, I knocked. I had found the vicar.

Asking me in, his lady wife made tea with two biscuits on the saucer

my clumsy hands held the delicate china like the claws of an eagle

I had no desire to drop it, to look like a fool.

Bad enough, the questions I was about to ask

The vicar’s answers glued my body to the chair

A hundred years ago, Margaret Lee was stoned to death

The night of the crescent moon on Michaelmas eve

For carrying another man’s child.

My thoughts became jumbled with the vicar’s words

The items you mention were there to keep her earthbound

For the past five years we uncover the grave

To let her remember how it felt to be free

We believe her punishment didn’t fit the crime

Our hope is, she might be released from her bondage

We wait for a sign.

I had forgotten it was Christmas eve, before leaving,

I suggested they should take the red cotton from her wrists

Remove the remaining items, including the broken blue beads

That once may have adorned her neck.

The vicar looked at me in surprise, his wife almost dropped the cup,

standing as if she had been shot from the chair.

God in heaven, why haven’t we thought of that?

It must be done, husband. It may stop the crying

that haunts us each year on this blessed day.

I left the vicarage

thinking it was no blessed day for Margaret Lee…


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