Ladder, by John Berger

16 November 2013

The uprights are pine
the rungs are ash
between each rung
the grass of months is pressed
hard as a saddle

At the foot of the ladder
on her back
belly distended
like a grey risen loaf
a dead ewe
legs in the air
thin as the legs
of a kitchen chair
she strayed yesterday
ate too much lucerne
which fermenting
burst her stomach
the first snow
falls on her grey wool
a vole in the dark
systematically
eats the ear on the ground
at daybreak two crows
haphazardly peck
the gums of the teeth
her frosted eyes are open

Every ladder
is lightheaded
on the topmost rung
the seeds have flowered
into the colours of the world
and two butterflies white
like the notes
of an accordion
pursuing
touching
parting
climb the blue sky

Far above the ladder’s head
instantaneously
their white wings change into blue
and they disappear
like the dead

Descending
and ascending
this ladder
I live

[Read in Pig Earth, published by Bloomsbury]

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