Behind us lie those fragments…
The figure sat,
camped in a red chair he waited it out
and scared us with his six feet.
Then the red, white and blue flag blanketed him,
we breathed the scent of dyed carnations;
the wreaths at our feet.
The name that tastes of white bread
conceals his own.
The war that made those pieces unutterable,
we’re glad he never saw it.
The news reflects his ruins,
spider cracks that chasm,
it’s impossible to remain intact.
Bracing the walls of the club
that bellowed with men in grey pants,
never seen again.
I only know who he is dead.
In your life I remember:
slurped Borsch, Kutya;
the bowl of painted eggs.
Ladled by day the hospital food
the proved their culinary expertise
easy to mimic.
The five-year-old interpreter who understood
for friends that had roasts and farms to get to.
You tried to make me fat,
as stories of princesses wove gold across
the landscape you could not speak.
This Europe had an underbelly that dragged in the mud,
its remnants turned to kitsch, our translation lined your walls.
The painted doors that gave birth to each other to Tchaikovsky,
ornaments marched through the rooms
on embroidered lace I unpacked as I ate.
Anoushka who came to unfurl your neatly folded
yellow and blue; a skin that still feels
when you recall generations.
But you are more concealed than he,
with our wreaths or stone, I bear no name.
The problem with the sea
On the mantle piece is a shell
which contains the sea –
at my ear salty gusts of wind.
I miss this as I pick my way over brown weed,
deposited by gradual sliding towards the sand.
The sea is fast as a tack; I watch seagulls fly at my feet.
Reminded why my father chose this as his destination,
word of our sun culture spreading,
more surfing could be done.
A mix up must have occurred, I wonder why
instructions were not given to deposit him on the West Coast
Instead he takes pleasure in skimming stones,
his ripples creating excitement for the teenagers trying to boogie board
in a luke-warm pond.
The kids in his classes ponder the best way to give textual difference
to landscapes of gulf-water scenes.
Finding the only way to define
the identical sky and sea
are two strips of blue, one high, one low.
A final yellow stripe completing
the embellishment of pin-up boards.
And some imagine that the waves are there,
filling the sea with mermaids and sharks.
In the initial year brows furrow,
one of these is not like the others
of the lake, ocean and river; one must flow,
and one is, perhaps, more salty than the others.
The problem with the sea
is that it is not, nor ever,
as the sea should be.
chewy jelly gums.
stretched praying mantis
And all the arms folded in ruling
“I know bests’,
enfolded in a
For baby –
who breathes her future
suddenly becoming ours.
Puff chested and feral,
eyes glint over generations
raised as humans, ducks and pups
nestled beneath tricoloured fluff.
As children we leapt over rocks,
riding skateboards pulled by claws,
tended by a kindly eye.
Moved by a blue haze she enters
with a ball saying: ‘this is what
has become of me.
I am barrel-bodied and old,
my temples flecked and teeth blunt,
banished like a forgotten sock.
I chew those days and remember
youth encouraging play as a friend and pet
I cared. Age surpassing you
retreating towards an arthritic end’.
You keep putting on that face,
why do you amble
turning space into the tiniest place
as though weighed by some burden?
The cream is in your mind – think like an athlete
and you’ll be one.
This is the grudgingly accepted sculpture,
someone’s carved me from your bones.
And I dread to think of my future;
or cheerful jitter.
‘Try putting your feet together
don’t rest them apart
if you turn them out like that
you’ll look like a pigeon
and it is because you don’t have wings
that you can’t escape
you have a ring around your leg
that says this is your life.’
The thin thing that peers in retro,
carving waves and patches for us.
Caught pretending love
and ease of living
clinging to the arms of
fellow creators longing to keep.
But somehow in all of this,
still young and odd,
we’ve ended up keeping you.
[These poems were written prior to my twentieth birthday and have been published here, 18 years later, unedited and in full]