Hearth by Maeve Henry


by Maeve Henry


Peter, Magdalena, their fourteen children,
heads bowed over mieliepap, give thanks
to Ons Heer for the dry cave and the warm
breath of their horse this winter night.
Beyond the trestles, barrels and the sacks,
an oil lamp’s vapour makes the ochre line
of hunters dance on crooked limestone.
The Boer spears ham on his clasp-knife’s point,
wipes hands on immense tweed thighs and
dreams his farmhouse built, his sheep
already grazing on the thorn veldt. Magdalena
beds her babies down on the soft
silt, storeys deep, and frets
for the coloured maid from Danielskuil
they can’t afford to hire.

Lights out, horse shifts its weight,
and a child squalls,
then quiet sleep enters the dark,
runs back and back into the koppie,
past flint axe, past incised stone
to where the beginning
of mothers squats, crooning,
by newborn fire.


Maeve Henry lives in Oxford. She works in hospital administration and is currently studying for a Masters in Creative Writing at Oxford Brookes. Her work has been published in various places, including Mslexia, The Interpreter’s House and Ink, Sweat and Tears. She was longlisted for the National Poetry Competition 2014 and 2015, and has been chosen as one of Eyewear Publishing’s  Best New British and Irish Poets 2017. She is married and has three children.

Maeve Henry was shortlisted for the 2016 Flambard Poetry Prize. An anthology featuring more poems by 2016’s prizewinners is available here.