Pratibha Castle

When You Hail from Famine

Pratibha Castle

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Even if from generations back,

when potatoes fouled in ditches, 

lewd dead, casualties of sleet and

callous crops, green sludge sucking

through toes on unshod feet

of wraithy waifs, blade winds

cauterising hands, cheeks,

the shameless legs of yous 

flayed like crackling. Quilting

squares of peat, red tongues

licking bellied pots, glistering

the gloating stare of a smoke

cat hunkered by the grate,

facing down the crone 

with the hacking chest, hemp

sack apron, mist twirl hair

shredding comfrey and nettle tips 

foraged beyond white thorn 

hedges by the childer.

Cabbages from the yard

trampled by a sow on the run

from her rickety pen. Atlantic

kelp writhing in the broth 

like a bed of elvers. 

A sprinkle of salt,

muttered charm to Bride

or whatever other Lady 

might be heeding. 

Across the sea, decades on,

my mother’s gift when she

visited her small grandson –

at the flat beyond the blue plaque

house near Primrose Hill –

paper bags from the Camden market:

grapes like luminous green boils, pock 

cheeked tangerines, Jaffa cakes

fallen off the back of a lorry,

offerings to a hollow gutted shade.

Pratibha Castle

Pratibha Castle’s award winning debut pamphlet, A Triptych of Birds and A Few Loose Feathers (Hedgehog Press) publishes in 2021. Her work appears in literary journals including Sarasvati, Reach, Fly on the WallImspired and online in The Blue Nib,and Fragmented Voices, and is broadcast regularly on West Wilts Radio.