A Song to Rest the Tired Dead

Raine Geoghegan

In memory of Celia Lane

it is dusk

she has come to wash the body

a table is set by the bed

a bowl of lavender water

clean muslin cloths

a white towel


too young for death’


she thinks as she removes all the clothing

and jewellery from the body of her niece

she notices stretch marks on the thighs

how the breasts have dropped

from feeding the chavies


forty years ago, just been borned                                                           

sucking at her Daya’s breast.’


taking a cloth

she dips it in water

squeezes it hard in her hand

sets about her task


malts stand by the door way

aunts, daughters, sisters and the mother

singing in low soft voices

a song to rest the dead


she speaks quietly

to her loved one as she gently cleans

lifting one arm up then the other

holding it

placing it down carefully

as if it was made of glass


the others won’t move too close

it is mokkadi to do so


this woman who washes the dead

now holds both feet

letting them rest for a while

blessing them for all the miles

they have trod the earth


she dresses her niece in the finest of clothes

combs her dark tangled hair

places the gold chain and earrings in the

palm of the right hand

puts the wedding ring back on

the third finger of the left hand


such small fingers’


bending forward, kisses them


  ‘you are ready now, my gel, sov well’


Romani words

Chavies – children

Daya – mother

Malts – women

Mokkadi – unclean

RAINE GEOGHEGAN, MA in in Creative Writing appeared at the Ledbury Poetry Festival in July 2018 at the Market Theatre. She previewed her debut poetry pamphlet ‘Apple Water – Povel Panni’ alongside the film ‘Stories from the Hop Yards’, in which she appears. The pamphlet will be officially launched in November 2018 by Hedgehog Press. Her work has appeared both online and in print in journals such as Under the Radar; Anima Poetry Press; Fair Acre Press; The Travellers Times; The Clearing; Words for the Wild and others. Raine lives in West Sussex.