The Woolgatherers – Kate Falvey

Millie and Adela waggle their tow-sacks
through the stile, grazing the beech hedge
as if they were moony golden sheep instead of
moony dun girls meant to be sharp-eyed,
not dozy and slack, watching for bits of fluff,
flimsy in the scraggly brush.
They trod on silver thistle, quaking grass,
bramble, and brome, plucking buttercups
and bluebells instead of Cotswold wool tufts
as they ramble toward the wych elm with
its withered arms scratching at the lowering sky
and giddy at their coming.
Jasper, George, and little Letty Hawkins
scramble close behind, pockets and
willow baskets trembling with unease
and wispy snags of fleece picked from
splintered slat and seedpod,
roughened creeping vine.
There is no spell that will make the boys
quicken to their tasks or give Letty longer,
bolder legs or make the fiddle-riffs of lapwings
less eerily enticing or the yellow whisperings
of lady’s bedstraw less lulling, less
beguiling in the webs of shivery light.
Millie and Adela drop their sacks and drag
the boys along within the dreadful rushing
of their voiceless howling, their feet still
sniffing the spongy ground
for little Letty as they dash through
her sudden vanishing.

Through the blue and yellow flower froth,
they whirl their arms and pell-mell hare away,
past the tell-tale milk-blue twitch of thread
whimpering from the lowest grasping
wych elm branch where 
little Letty’s basket fell
and nowadays is a small tussock
fluffed with yarrow and
wreathed by wild windflowers.

Kate Falvey’s work has been published in an eclectic array of journals and anthologies, including the Mysteries issue of Deep Overstock; in a full-length collection, The Language of Little Girls (David Robert Books); and in two chapbooks. She edits the 2 Bridges Review, published through City Tech/CUNY, where she teaches, and is an associate editor for the Bellevue Literary Review.

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