Mercies, by Anna Forbes






It was a difficult year.


As could be expected, frost 


the fields and 

promptly lost its hold. 

Figuring them

in patterns that could not be read

as he knew he had once had the power

to read them before.  


Struggling each morning

over a burgeoning maze of 

ice, crammed with the stems of

useless vegetation


and–down in one corner 

a solitary crocus. The unreadiness of which

troubled him with nagging disproportion.  



For many nights, he lay below the eaves

on the bed he had kept since childhood

and thought about the burden of the land


which,​​ alongside​​ other fleeting things; 

robins, battling with a ferocity

incongruent to their size– 

the steady reliability of returning cows

lending their breath to the evening  


had compelled him to witness 

the terrible and unspoken diminishment

of his parent’s strength.

The swiftness of its passing only matched

by the slowly mounting bitterness 

of barely weathered winters.




But things were not always as linear

as it seemed that they​​ would​​ be. When the frost

came back    

and this time did its job–

blanketing the fields 

with a patent uniformity of bleakness


It seemed that he was able to find,​​ or was provided with

only under condition of​​ that​​ extremity   

some lingering reminder of a sweetness.



He felt it, some days

in things as unassuming as the light

mustering itself 

for one last burst of intensity

over a colourless sky


and, on others 

through​​ the​​ quiet observation of his father. 




Noticing in him

some reservoir of undiluted​​ strength

kept, only for the most demanding 

of physical tasks. 


Or, on another occasion

after the frost had melted for a second time

the​​ cautious​​ re-assumption of a reverence

with​​ which he approached the space  

three stalls down from the store.    


Accustomising​​ its resident  

to the​​ startling​​ coldness of a metal disc  

and moving its surface to sound

the unwavering​​ presence


of two neat calves;

hammocked in blood

under the ilium

which jutted like a blade

in lonelier seasons.





Published 28th of May 2022

About Anna Forbes

Anna Forbes is from Edinburgh, She studied at King’s College London, where she obtained a degree in Comparative Literature. Her poetry has featured in a range of publications including Antiphon, the Fortnightly Review, and Southbank Poetry.