…The man we knew was hooded and smoothed,/walked as a panther through hospital wards,/ secret, sleek & springing off the balls of his feet./Now his eyes pace, pale-irised and clever…
This set of six poems observes various types of relationship: intimate, collegial, family, cultural, and relationship to self.
1. Burn Thickness
The man we knew was hooded and smoothed,
walked as a panther through hospital wards,
secret, sleek & springing off the balls of his feet.
Now his eyes pace, pale-irised and clever
– the only part of him unburnt
in a face ever bald-surprised and marbled.
And instead of hands, blurred knobs of flesh,
pinker than my rhododendrons.
His meal arrives, a shell-fish pasta tangle
I cringe & look away – what will he do?
But he talks of vineyards vats and politicians
and we listen on as time slides loose,
the problem of the knife & fork unnoticed
as he grows jungle-lithe and olive-skinned again.
2. Farmer Wants a Wife
That shamble bear cheeky grinned
Kings schooled shearer man
of the thousand acres (more).
What a hunk, hunkered down
alone & out of town
with work as all.
Welcome to my parlour (really) my old homestead
what a party – all that landed gentry stuff
‘cept he was red eyed, drinking rum.
Farmer wants a wife!
He joked. A woman warm, with wit,
with sparkling eyes and independent means!
Three years on, my spirit cold in dying light
it’s hold your tongue you cow you’re all the same
& I’m dizzy-dulled and shackled, numb and not-me.
And now I know farmer wants a wife
breathing barely, buried in the ground in a box beneath his feet
3. Usual Small Things
I had an Uncle John,
the only uncle I have known.
He was old when I was young
& I thought of him as strange
because he was so plain and mild and kind.
Invariably behind the scenes
he’d hum around the house
as he pottered determinedly,
I never knew at what really
except he’d water plants by hand;
with hose he’d stand at garden shrubs
for what seemed like an age.
He had a patience and a peace
quite alien to me.
Most nights he’d sit alone
with his transistor radio
listening to Beethoven or Brahms.
Aunty would talk and smoke and watch TV
she rarely ventured out
while Uncle John would fetch or do
what needed to be done.
Theirs seemed to be a happy home
voices never raised
it was simple and so restful
and I felt no undertows.
How I wished I could be theirs for good
not just at holidays.
Years later I was in Wales
when I learned that Uncle John had passed away.
He’d been on his daily bushland walk:
his heart had burst at the last
just doing one of his usual small things.
I may still chip
perhaps a surface scratch, band-aided.
I have filled.
Gone are the days as a girl
when, with a twirl & a polished smile
I’d slice a man to the bone.
Countless shards I’ve left lodged in careless hearts
if I was pressured, poorly packed or tagged
too loosely held.
A flick-ping crystal edge
innocently open, transparently
waiting, watching for that clumsy move,
your scars mere proof
I had to self-protect.
5. My Cosy Sunday
A flutter fuss, a sparrow’s cry & I look up – page gone –
through panes of lead framed glass
a tussle in my tulip tree, now whip wet black & bare.
This September snow lets spring buds know
it’s not quite safe – but soon.
That’s when I see a sudden sun
strolling bright past my front yard
a woman, black-skinned, dressed in flames
which leap and flare with every roll
of graceful hip & long-legged glide
her queenly head dressed high, all hail,
her beauty warms our frigid town.
I want to tell her welcome & I’m sorry it’s so cold,
that so many here are fearful but it’s really very safe,
the only danger, strangely,
a people’s disconnect from soul.
clear eyed shining twenty:twenty
her own level
believed and bevelled
So when exactly did she fall
from the cutting edge
fell hook line and
stupidly cut and bled.
Her view opaqued and slowed
She blurred with grey spot and blotch
some third eye
to an inner vision (another poem).
Now just for appearances she hangs
above fire between bookshelves
in 3D glass blocks angled