Sarah Audsley


A Village Birth

Thatched roof
dirt floor, bare feet
mud walls, one room.

Fire smoking—cough—cough
water boiling—steam rising—cloth
ripping to strip rags.

Bed on floor—woman propped up
with straw-stuffed pillows bearing
down on the world
inside her.

Tearing flesh—gushing blood—red
—Life breathes and begins
with screams—Light ripping up the darkness.
—But the familiar shadow creeps gleefully along the wall
making a trade: one life to live, one to let go.

Arms open, tears on face
—Father greets his child
And the world changes, again.

The only witness—a hunched back midwife—lumbers
along the stone strewn road
tired—from another night’s hard labor.

The Attemp


thought: left unsaid, this unknowing
will gnaw at his insides, like
rubbing the skin of his hands raw
from moving the saw
back and forth.
Slicing the layers of skin, to blister
raised liquid filled, then bursting
to boil over and burn. 

didn’t know she even owned him,
lost completely, grasped without knowing
the weight of its gravity; silence is
treatment for loss.
Carry the stones, dredged from the river’s
bottom, and drop them one by one
onto the forest floor.  To fall, and
falling to fail
each stone slips, strewn
from her hand, landing among the ruin. 

walked a path through the standing grove
branches bared naked to the sky.
A translucent path of quartzite, white polished
smooth stones, he found.
Moved from water
to dirt hollows, these stones intrude, cause
chaos as the scientist’s eyes read the scene.

came close to quitting.  Sun slipped behind the
light-edged mountain ridge, cold deepened from
skin layer to bone marrow, her body wept. 
Knowing he was close, she slipped into the earth,
swallowed whole, covered over with leaves—lucky
                                     unknowing how to leave a place. 

Three Pileated Woodpeckers

On our first encounter
when I felt the most like our lives
lined up in parallel—you saw
one off in the distance
attacking the high limb
of an old spruce.

From my vantage point, nothing.
All I really saw was you
on a blanket in the sun
stretched out to sleep.

We are halfway to that broken point
and I already feel the shadow.
I glance down upon my palm where
the lifeline splits—I should have known
from my own skin that we’d part ways.

We lie down in the leaves together
to nap, except I cannot.
Restless, I chatter away
—to dig my flesh underneath yours
and merge the lifelines again—palm to palm.

Another pileated woodpecker
in his crimson crown, takes flight.
And all I see is a black moving mass.

In the quiet of slumber
a gray-dark silhouette seeks
me out—your sudden appearance.

I finally see the flaming glory
a large body rocking against the big pine.
He is knocking
knocking, knocking
for nourishment in that wooden meat.

As I stride forward into dusk
I think—this is the first time I’ve
really seen one—how very much
                my head is his.
He must be the same one I could
not see before.

 Copyright © 2012 Sarah Audsley

Sarah Audsley lives and works in Northern New Hampshire. She loves being outside and draws her inspiration from the natural world.