Rhiannon Williams: Risen / Mnimosino

Risen / Mnimosino

Is it worth it, this August, to get up and go again?
The women’s shoulders have turned to smooth brown pebbles,
but this is St. Lazarus’ church and you must cover them up
or suffer the stare of your neighbour, shot along the worn-wood horizon.
Warping a thin, dark yellow candle, breathing in the animal smell
of its origins and trying to will some significance into this service,
I’m waiting for the priest to say my grandmother’s name –
I always miss it, his fast chant cheats me and keeps her where the dead belong.
In the afternoon, my uncles play cards while the women stand wrist-deep in offal.
They strip and drain clammy poultry, gouge out tough little hearts of vermillion,
ropy red webbing to peel and divide from the breasts and the thighs.
They roll up their sleeves and deliver. My mother eats the heart and liver.
The men take their coffee sketo, black-pudding-dark.
I take through a tray of tiny white cups and saucers
ceremonial under eyes sliding up from hearts and spades.
I hope they remember how she fed them; some of them she raised.
It seems to me sometimes that the service comes too late.

We were told not to enter the church while menstrual.
I did as my grandmother would have, and showed up.
She said a slap would shock blood flow to a stop.
She drank them under the table, and poured enough for everybody,
she tore up all the red roses in her garden, because it made me laugh.

Note: mnimosino / μνημόσυνο – the anniversary of a death in Greek Orthodox culture.

Rhiannon Williams is an English-Cypriot poet, researcher, writer and a co-founder of Feminist Internet. She has written and spoken publicly about the division and buffer zone of the island of Cyprus, and how our surroundings both natural and man-made impact our empathy and our communal relationships. She is also interested in gender, nature and liminal spaces. Her debut poetry pamphlet, Saturnine/Saturnalia, was published in 2018.

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