He brought down the axe
on those prehistoric stones
that had regally edged his flower bed
public and permanent
undisputed leave to rule granted,
planted, for centuries.
Meaning to smash those stones,
dash them down to size
despising their indestructible
smooth confidence, since
his lay shattered,
he refused to be thwarted by disease,
disappointment and a blunt axe.
Raising his game he brought to bear
great anger and frustration,
torn muscles and brittle bones
screaming, tears streaming in rivers
past slivers of stone,
whilst they remained, undiminished
taking pain without complaint.
A striking array of architecture and engineering
split by a motorway: slipping away on the periphery,
age old churches with honeycomb spires,
stone walls structured by hands gnarled and weathered,
and where we walk, the canal, conveyor of commodities,
built with such precision and purpose,
then restored to peaceful glory
by people inspired by history and the benefits of tranquillity.
The other edge marked by smooth sailing windmills,
soaring tall and majestic,
beautiful beacons befitting a noble vision;
while their base neighbour, the monstrous, belching
rocksavage powerstation carcass, casts its shadow
upon weather beaten protesters
waving placards and drowning in fracked fields.
At the window in my front room
I watched umbrellas go up the hill
struggling in furious autumn gale
most black, some red or comically transparent
pulled down upon a woman’s shoulders
to protect her new hairdo from the rain.
The Georgian bay window shielded me from rain.
I loved to be alone. That cold front room
with long net curtains wrapped around young shoulders
and the weather beating, shining or racing down the hill
was my castle; huge windows on a world transparent,
sheltered from the furious autumn gale.
Round I whirled, a leaf dancing in the gale,
moving faster and higher, inspired by the rain.
The net meant giant windows were transparent
only from the inside, so to a clunky sale room
gramophone weighted with pennies, I was me on that hill,
before the world could press upon my shoulders.
I smelled the musty net around my shoulders
and knew the world was old and furious, though its gale
and torrential outpouring never rested on our hill,
forming pools in parks where tourists pulled on rain-
coats and stirred coffee with plastic spoons, in a room
where an organ played and people’s smiles were transparent.
When my cousin came, we served homemade sweets on transparent
plates and put on a show. On young shoulders
responsibility for choreography and costume. Front room
filled with patient eyes, we would anxiously regale
our aunties, mums and Nanna with entertainment, rain
dancing in accord, outside, thunder clapping on the hill.
Of course, I grew up, and went out from the hill,
down into murky valleys, away from transparent
umbrellas, aunties and sticky sweets, out into rain
that seemed more inhospitable when it landed on shoulders
bent and bowed with the weight of life’s gale.
But part of me will always dance in that front room.
Meet me on the hill, put a scarf around my shoulders,
transparent rivulets in a furious autumn gale,
blessed by rain, with no umbrella, let us dance in my front room.
Alone in the old bathroom, I crouched,
steaming, in a towel, the warmth
of a recent bath rising from my skin;
long childhood locks lifted in a plastic cap.
While grown-ups thought I bathed, I took a brush
and scrubbed the bath to new. I drew with crayons
made of soap. And wondering what it was to shave,
cut my leg on Dad’s sharp razor blade.
Bath time brought adventure: a metal rack
packed with loofah, sponge, a blue dish
to fill and empty, clean and crinkled fingers
rubbed together with rudish shlucking sounds.
At school, where girls combined to wash,
communal ablutions diluted any sense of fun;
privacy and prudery washed away in timetabled
titivation. All residue of childhood Vimmed.
When chemo winter stole my hair and I was cold,
my constant comfort was a simple bath of tin,
filled from the kitchen sink. Lapped by life
I could be consoled by water, spirited again.
We lose them, don’t we, one by one, to time or aspiration?
What seams we sew, must rip to grow: unseemly alteration.
By stealth, their tide begins to ebb, and tangled in the mortal web
they may forget or shift away from our attention – not to say
we love them less – but like the moon, a distant crescent
glanced at briefly, still in our rounded knowledge there completely.
Look in my face now I have lost some valued constant from a distant past
and find the line which holds me like a kite, and fix me to my missing moon tonight.
D ad told his aviation stories
E very time we met. It
M eant I knew them – sort of. His pride and joy –
E ach became grounded, one by one,
N o longer airworthy…
T il, getting my bearings, I turned a key
I n my voice and imagination,
A nd Flight Lieutenant Dean and I, we learned to fly together.
Toes, waist, chest, chin, then swallowed by the sea,
I’m a mermaid, brought up on ear popping sandstone rock,
sent to salsa through a musical element not our own,
where fish may do-si-do through lace of flimsy lungs.
Dive with me heartlong through musical wave ranges,
sparking the excitement of a gazillion castanets.
Let me tantalise you with Chalchiuhtlicue’s castanets,
while jealous Eurybia pirouettes by us in the sea.
Now we’ll reach below the surface for deeper ranges,
and I’ll show you how to roll the waves and rock
in ecstatic freedom, with fine, uninhibited lungs,
until you exclaim, and claim the water as your own.
Then you and I can find a soundscape of our own,
a balletic collaboration, moving beyond castanets,
to a place where dolphins commune and human lungs
split into feather gills, fleet and sexy for the sea;
where we will meet our thermal origins, ready to rock,
and pause to play great fossil pipes at unheard ranges.
When we have absorbed those harmonic underwater ranges,
and sea beard grows between teeth not quite our own;
when we have become our ancestors, and belong to the rock;
somewhere above us still will play those spangled castanets,
and as you lay yourself on my shelf beneath the sea,
so the dance of our bodies will return us up with new lungs.
First breath, as we surface, oxygen thrust into salty lungs;
First cry, as we emerge, sound splintering mountain ranges;
First swim, as we splash, amazed, to the music of the sea;
sent to salsa through an element not our own,
accompanied by the clap of Chalchiuhtlicue’s castanets,
we’ll reach a place where water drums roar on sandstone rock.
We’ll help each other up, upon the drums of sandstone rock,
and, beating chests, exalted in our triumph, fill our lungs
with air, sea below us clapping – a gazillion castanets,
we’ll sing of life and rock and roll and mountain ranges,
and know the music of the earth, which we can never own,
but that we clambered up to dance to, from the sea.
From our hold upon this rock, the clapping of castanets
and our own song, belted with the mighty power of human lungs,
rings out across mountain ranges, and to the bottom of the sea.
In this hall we stand and then the castle is ours,
with its cruck roof a fine shelter in this time;
hear merriment; see us feast well; and smell the
smoke and meat and sweat
from our revelries. Friends join us in song and dance,
faces lit by lamps and burnt orange leaping flames
which wrap around them. Sir Knight, fill my goblet
with goodly red wine,
pull your bench to mine to whisper our intent.
We’ll not leave this place till night, drunk and confused,
breaks the great door, spilling its heady reason –
We’ll not surrender yet!