Honeyed

by Isabella Mead

On long evenings, the Grans will embellish on this:
how a branch of our family, the Mead bloodline,
is infused, they say, with a strange sixth sense.

They take a sip and begin. How my aunt, even now
talks to her late husband, gets his opinion
while running a bath or watering geraniums.

And the cousin who has my aunt’s dark eyes
awoke in a hammock in Mexico
by yellow orchids, and felt compelled

to call home at once, not knowing why,
the day her mum had the final fall.
And then there’s the story I like best of all:

of my father’s father in World War II
“somewhere in Italy”, how he and another
were hauling a stretcher for a wounded soldier

along a dust road past deep olive groves
under full sunlight when he suddenly paused
and told his companion to change direction

and pass behind the wayside churchyard and yews
despite having traipsed the same route all day.
Bemused, they moved, and in the minutes following

a shell blotted out where they would have been walking.
He tried but couldn’t explain the feeling.
The Grans say this insight is due to the mead,

as if the family tree holds a residue
of the golden liquid poured into goblets
in the candlelit taverns of Saxon kings,

the same hoarded light of cloisonné jewels
touched with the mystical properties of Merlin.
Or else it’s just the Grans running on

and harnessing the work of bees:
drunk on orange blossom and clover
and imbuing an hour or so with sugar.

True or not, they say, you should start now:
find secrets in pollen, the sweetness of melomel,
tell scented stories that transcend

the shrivelled roots, the skeletal trees,
the glare of a news bulletin, the despair of a room,
the stagnation of a winter afternoon.