As a child, or so goes the tale,
I was held by a Gypsy.
She was one of the old breed,
those disappeared into story and memory.
A twist of heather and some clothes pegs
to be sold; paltry fare but essential.
Essential also to avoid the curse,
a few pennies once per year little cost.
I remember it not. My mind fills in the gaps
like those between her yellowed teeth.
Or the smell of the campfire on her shawl;
rough handspun wool, warm but dangerous.
Hands like labourer’s, strong and gnarled as the gorse,
held me that day, saving my life many years later.
Or so goes the tale; I was blessed, the crone crooned
words indecipherable, but protecting. Shielding.
Many years have passed and she wanders no more,
gone are those days, into dim memory and haze.
But on lives her legacy, for I know she saved me
but yesterday. I was cursed, fingers flying.
Her voice chanting, angry bees, stinging hornets,
the words threw themselves towards me.
She was one of the new breed, to this country at least,
the horn of far Africa her place of birth. Tattooed on her cheeks.
I did not deserve the curse, this matters not,
for my shielding held intact. It was a strange thing.
As she gestured, cobra-spitting, I felt a peace,
I felt warmly protected. Her dark eyes widened as I smiled.
Hands stopped mid hex, fluttering like a moth in a web,
impotent and strangled. Incapable of hurt.
She backed away and I came back to this century;
a battle having been fought over my soul, ages old.
The summer walkers have all but gone, their paths
disappearing under black Macadam. The cities claimed them.
The heather is safe from trimming, willow wood no longer
bound by tin. Plastic poor substitute, soulless.
Or so goes the tale; I live in hope that one day, when I am carrying
my baby, there is a knock at the door, heather charms to be bought.
For it is in these rituals, these relics, that our future
safety may lay. I am proof, or so goes the tale.