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Bridget

Bex Hainsworth

'Bridget' was shortlisted in the 2021 Ware Poets Competition and subsequently appeared in the winners' anthology

ยนBridget Cleary was born in Ireland in 1869. She was murdered by her husband and his family after they
claimed she was a fairy changeling who had taken the place of Bridget after she went missing near their home.

Bex Hainsworth is a poet and teacher based in Leicester, UK. She won the Collection HQ Prize as part of the East Riding Festival of Words and her poetry has been published following commendations in the Welsh Poetry, Ware Poets and AUB Poetry competitions. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Lake, MONO., Atrium and Brave Voices Magazine.

๐ด๐‘Ÿ๐‘’ ๐‘ฆ๐‘œ๐‘ข ๐‘Ž ๐‘ค๐‘–๐‘ก๐‘โ„Ž, ๐‘œ๐‘Ÿ ๐‘Ž๐‘Ÿ๐‘’ ๐‘ฆ๐‘œ๐‘ข ๐‘Ž ๐‘“๐‘Ž๐‘–๐‘Ÿ๐‘ฆ?
๐‘‚๐‘Ÿ ๐‘Ž๐‘Ÿ๐‘’ ๐‘ฆ๐‘œ๐‘ข ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’ ๐‘ค๐‘–๐‘“๐‘’ ๐‘œ๐‘“ ๐‘€๐‘–๐‘โ„Ž๐‘Ž๐‘’๐‘™ ๐ถ๐‘™๐‘’๐‘Ž๐‘Ÿ๐‘ฆ?ยน

I was born in the thicket under an amber moon.
Squatting like a frog, my mother lifted me
from the shimmering slop, saw volcanic eyes,
pale gums needling with teeth, and left me
in a warm cradle with the Bolands of Ballyvadlea.

I was eighteen when they married me to Michael.
After a childhood spent with soil beneath my nails,
leaves in my hair, chasing after Titania, Morgan le Fay,
Flidais, and Mug Ruith, my caretakers thought the cooper
would straighten me out. He worked with cold, chopped timber;
I was a living tree with earth in my bones.
He didnโ€™t know what to do with me.

Our cottage was built on sacred ground.
The deposed mound, old fort, was filled
with mushroom fossils, scattered in loose wreaths
like fingerprints. There was whitethorn in the windows.
I think it was the only reason I came back to him:
our homeโ€™s mystic gravity. At night, after a rut,
the cup of my womb unfilled, my body fallow,
I would go to the forest, curl up with the brambles
supping at my bare breasts, skin prickling, aflame.
Sometimes, I would wish for a daughter.

I was happiest when he was away in Clonnel.
My sewing machine singing like a stream,
the chickens fluttering around a circle of seed,
I would run feathers between finger and thumb,
ache with a familiarity, ancient, arcane.
And so I made my own way. Michael, when
he came back, was a passenger, luggage. He knew it.

I canโ€™t believe it was the bronchitis that did it.
Honestly, I thought he had always known โ€“ but then again,
he was a little slow. By then the homesickness had grown
like cold moss over my soul: I was ready to go.
Interrogation, frenzy, the impotence of men.
In the end, I let them burn me and throw my bones
into the thicket. Later, I stepped out of the earth,
as if out of a fire: phoenix, fae, a woman reborn.

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