The Afterbirth

Ted Hughes

Huddled on the floor, the afterbirth
Was already offal.
There was the lotus-eater's whole island
Dragged out by its roots, into the light,
And flopped onto blood-soaked newsprint - a tangled
Puddle of dawn reds and evening purples,
To be rubbished. You were laughing and weeping
Into the glare. A tear-splitting dazzle
Like the noon sun finally stared at
Had burst into the bedroom when the Gorgon
Arrived and ripped her face off
And threw it to the floor. Such a shocking
Beauty born. I saw it flash up
That sunburned German with all his strength
Slamming the sea-tripes of the octopus
Hard down onto our honeymoon quay -
In the blue-blackish glare
Of my sunstroke.

You were weeping
Your biggest, purest joy. The placenta
Already meaningless, asphyxiated.
Your eyes dazzling tears as I thought
No other brown eyes could, ever,
As you lifted the dazzler. I eased
The heavy, fallen Eden into a bowl
Of ovenproof glass. A bowl with a meaning
All to itself - a hare crouching
In its claret - the curled-up, chopped-up corpse
That weeks before I had jugged in it. I felt
Like somebody's shadow on a cave wall.
A figure with a dog's head
On a tomb wall in Egypt. You watched me
From your bed, through the window,
As I buried the bowlful of afterbirth
In a motherly hump of ancient Britain,
Under the elms. You would eat no more hare
Jugged in the wine of its own blood
Out of that bowl. The hare nesting in it
Had opened its eye. As if some night,
Maybe with a thick snow falling softly,
It might come hobbling down from under the elms
Into our yard, crying: "Mother! Mother!
They are going to eat me."

Or bob up,
Dodging ahead, a witchy familiar, sent
To lock error beyond repair when it
Died silent, a black jolt,
Under my offside rear wheel
On the dawn A30. You heard nothing.
But it bled out of my pen. And re-formed
On my page, The hieroglyph of the hare.
You picked it up, curious.
And it screamed in your ear like a telephone -
The moon-eyed, ripped-up flower of it screamed.
Disembowelled, a stunned mask,
Unstoppably, like a burst artery,
The hare in the bowl screamed -