January 16, 2014
Time is swimming in the same lane as me.
Lapping me, laughing at my leisurely, languorous crawl.
He churns up the water, rude rapid muscled butterfly.
He should move to the lane marked fast,
And get out of this one marked slow.
Now Time swims slower, I have him at my shoulder.
I am still crawling, lazily elegant,
But he has broken into breaststroke, cloying and contained,
And so we swim side by side, companionably.
I am suddenly breathless, but way out in front.
Time dog-paddles, inefficient, no kick at all.
I can’t help winning.
I’ll soon hit the wall.
I can’t tumble turn.
As the temperature in Canberra was 40 degrees celsius yesterday, and feels about the same today, I felt that a poem about swimming was called for. Swimming and death!
I went swimming at the Australian Institute of Sport pool earlier this week, and was quite pleased that I managed to do a kilometre (20 laps) as I haven’t swam in a proper pool for a while. Most of my water immersion activity (ah, the beauty of unnecessarily complicated expressions!) is undertaken at the beach these days.
But in 40 degrees, the pool seems the place to be, and one risks serious sunburn swimming outside in this weather, if one is as slow a swimmer as I am. Hilariously, a tourist one filmed me at the AIS, where the Australian swim team trains. He must have thought I was a proper swimmer. Given that I really can’t tumble turn, or dive, he must have a very strange idea of Olympic swimming!
‘The pool’ was first published in the Hand Luggage Only anthology, (UK) 2008, edited Christopher Whitby.
September 6, 2011
Huge rubber torpedoes loose themselves onto shore;
a giant’s speed-humps beached. Incomprehensible,
these commas in a language no-one knows to speak.
Like sheep they follow each other, but no canny dog
can turn them, head them back to deep supporting sea.
Victims of gravity, bulk weighs them down,
and spread of sand becomes a massy grave.
That short word why grows in watchers’ minds,
pressing like the bodies on that fatal beach.
No answer comes. We water them like giant bulbs,
and strain to plant them back in bed of ocean.
But sometimes there can be just too much coast.
Unseen sirens called them, and some turned back
to dire, heavy death. Lapped by waves,
gentle as a fading memory, what do whales see
in that final surge, before their spirits swim away?
August 12, 2011
14 September 1983 – 23 July 2011
A claret voice, thick liquid copper,
poured out of her skin, sweat honeyed,
hair bee-hived. No droning sweetness;
such a tangy longing. If only she’d lasted
a few more years, we say, as if she were
a bottle to be stored and turned, turned,
until she matured into something else,
ordinaried into age, lees less special.
She’s gone; jade asps of notes remain
to remind how beauty often stings.
June 7, 2011
Further to my last post (now that sounds lawyerly!) here is another poem about cricket which was highly commended in the Adult Poetry section of the Kernewek Lowender Writers Event 2011. That’s an event celebrating Cornish culture in South Australia. I’m not Cornish, and I don’t know if cricket is popular in Cornwall, but here’s the poem, which actually rhymes. It was a pleasure to try something different in form (and tone) from my usual palette (aka bag of tricks). I wanted to try to write something almost like a ballad, and although it’s not perhaps my best work, there are images in it that I like.
Above the river-flats
That night I fell asleep after my customary ‘one or two’,
(which somehow numbered three, or four, or more than just a few)
and I awoke at half-past-nothing to the thump of ball on bat,
so I rolled over to watch the cricket ground, above the river-flats.
Cricketers wear whites, it’s true, but these glowed like a full moon,
and no-one had to run, for the players floated like balloons.
Above the grass they hovered like angels, or at least anaemic owls,
and something had muted their grunts and usual sporting growls.
‘Howzat?’ was quietly asked and somehow that old appeal,
sounded like Hamlet’s queries when he ponders if he’ll
be or end it all with a sudden bodkin that is bare,
and I wished I hadn’t laid my swag down, just exactly there.
The ghostly game played itself out, as all games must do,
and I lay and watched the players fade, and felt the showery dew.
Then I raised myself, and shook myself, like a dog come from a dam,
but knew that this attempt to forget was a feeble, wishful sham.
At the pub, later that day (and who wouldn’t need a beer
having watched ethereal cricketers for what seemed like a year?)
I raised the topic of the sports-ground, and what teams use that green,
all casual and circumspect with no mention of the scene.
‘There’s no teams play there no more’, my informant said.
‘All the young blokes have moved away, and the old ones are dead.
I was the greenkeeper, and I still keep it all mowed flat and nice,
but no-one uses it, ‘cept wombats. And the bloody mice.’
The truth tingled on the edges of my beer-loosened tongue,
to tell that immortal cricketers still sent the ball down, and swung
an elegant bat in a strange, beautiful moon-lit ritual,
but such a tale would mark me as a liar quite habitual;
So I shut my mouth, then opened it, and swallowed down my tale,
with the comforting blanket of my pension-purchased ale.
But each night now, as the visions toss and smash and frolic,
they are applauded with enthusiasm not entirely alcoholic.
For a man remembers many things, though he may forget more,
and I recall my own lost days, as I keep the spirits’ score,
before I left my home and love, when I played a different game.
And the exercise of the ghost-team now warms my tired cold frame.
May 19, 2011
Death and the missus
Death is a doughnut; we lick his sprinkles every day.
We feel their shadows on our lips after they have buried
into our own grave of stomach. Burps are their ghosts,
rattling sonic chains. Perhaps we are the doughnuts,
dunked in Death’s ever morning coffee, as he chats
with Mrs Death. Mrs Death is a knitter, has been working
on the same cardigan these twice two million years,
needles clicking like clocks before there ever were clocks.
It’s a domestic thing, after all. One minute you’re watching
The Bill (you poor sad sod) and the next, you’re gardening
from below, totally rooted, rooted as. And Death sighs,
and has a little break at Donuts R Us, hands trembling
as he cups that endless drink. He gloves himself in sugar.
And then he gets back to it; the icing and the holes.
First published in The Mozzie, Queensland.