Ruth Padel

July 9, 2013 Padel Ruth


(from Seven Words)


The voices of self are ended. A sepia

penumbra clears round a moon of blood.


The ancient temple cloth, purple thread

twisted with blue


and scarlet, thick linen protecting other people

all these years you’ve lived


from what is dangerous and sacred,

tears in two. Earth trembles and will not stop.


Feldspar, formed on the abyssal plain

of the ocean floor


splits presto and goes on splitting. Rocks crack

like cannon-fire


and distant mountains of East Nazareth

echo in aftershock


over limestone braille

in the Dead Sea Rift or Fault


over aquifers, flint and fissured chalk

and barbed wire


on the Mount of Olives.

Violence. Take your finger off the edge


and it snaps back like a rubber band

shaking our ground from top to bottom.


Buckling. Compression.  A spear jabs through

one interspace between the ribs


and water gushes out with blood from the fluid sac.

This is the end of everything you’ve been.


God is what God does. You are the earth.

The outer world, body’s integument, the layers


of all that’s happened in a life,

the bastions of defence and muddled litter


of experience, are bleeding out like dye

into a shroud. We are rhythmic animals


and our prayer

is breath. We don’t need veil:


the mystery we call soul

is no password-protected secret


but an invitation.

You’ll get there. You’re neither victim


nor a hero. You’ve come home

to new


possibilities of you. The night glides by.

Clouds move silver fast and free across the sky.

Ruth Padel’s next book, Emerald (Chatto & Windus, 2018), explores Colmbian emerald mining and Indian emerald-cutting. She has published ten collections and is closely engaged with Greece, music, science and conservation. Tigers in Red Weather explored Asian tiger forests. She is Professor of Poetry at King’s College London.