Unstable, hot metal sheets
Swaddle Chanistskali bridge.
Rivets tear at river’s bend as we,
All sat up and keen to arrive
Push forward over sheer drop cracks of space beneath.
Broken water rumples and cocoons tumble stones from
Distant cousin mountain- tops.
Egg pebbles skittle as boys who,
Brown from acres of sky, haunch, squint, push hard against echoing white light,
Pluck up stones,
Our car, already lacking suspension
Passes, at some speed toward the far side when the
Rear-end arches to meet the vicious scalpel cut that
Slices, just under me, the exhaust
We were heading towards Martvili Monastery. The previous night I had sat, until late, at our host’s table, with Nino, asking hard questions about the legend of St. Andrew who, in the 1st century had stopped the Druid ritual of sacrificing a baby, one a year, every year, to appease the gods. As a mother, I could not imagine the horror of being chosen, and being expected to be grateful for it, through a form of lottery, to bring my child, my baby, to die hung from an oak tree, in order to bring prosperity to the region. I wanted to know more. So many Georgian songs are connected with the ritual of child birth and protection against evil forces it was fascinating to be able to see for myself the place where, according to Christian propaganda, these rituals took place.
Only one hour into our 3 hour journey, the car now sounded like it belonged on a formula one race track and the exhaust fumes filled the inside so that, even with the windows wide open, I felt sick. I knew it was bad, and dangerous but, the driver, who had picked up the severed exhaust pipe, reassured me that it was not. I became increasingly anxious and insisted that we turn around and return to Zugdidi. Curiosity about ancient rituals at the monastery was not a big enough force to risk my life. I had my own son back at home that I wished to see again. The irony of the situation did not escape me, I had survived the white mini-bus ride only to potentially be killed by a mad Georgian driver in a hire a day taxi! Pretty soon the other passengers realised I was distressed and so it was decided to stop at the very next garage and get the missing exhaust piece welded back on.
This happened pretty quickly. The stopping I mean, not the welding, and at this point nature called so my companion and I set off to find the facilities.
Imagine a lean-to. Imagine a lean-to with an ill-fitting slatted door painted with a cross. Imagine a lean-to with an ill-fitting slatted door perched on a semi-concrete block with a hole punched into it. Imagine the concrete block perched over an open hole. Imagine the heat. Imagine the heat combined with the smell and then imagine being inside the lean-to, squatting, having taking a huge breath before you went in and hoping against hope you have enough air in your lungs to last the time it takes you to pee. Bear in mind you have been holding your bladder for the last hour.
There was no way I was going in there. My companion, made of sturdier stuff and with a bigger lung capacity than me, did.
Lean – to
Holy door swings
On rusting crooked hinges.
Braver than I
Frown of concentration lines her face and
Trying not to breathe more than once
Like a swimmer deep diving she
Gulps air, rushes in
I pee round the back.
The gaping hole,
Stares at me from
Block as I, distracted, am
Stung by a nettle that