Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Tuesday Poem: "Cruel Trick"

Mother, you gave me everything:
life, love and all the landmarks
of my moral landscape.
But I stand empty-handed and heavy-hearted
with no talisman
to ward off your unseen adversaries.
You know what I know:
that your memory is failing,
chipped away by turns, small and fragmentary.
I cannot “make it better” by kissing away
your suffering as you once did mine.
Like some Mongol Khan in the ebb of his empire,
confusion has crept under your tent-flap
and you wake to find its clammy hands
around your throat.

Your husband had an almost perfect death,
a couple of months of physical frailty,
his mind clear, his spirit accepting,
crossing the threshold through sleep,
his last sight that of the woman
he had loved deeply for fifty years.

This I wanted for you:
the life in full flame snuffed quickly,
not this cruel trick
of knowing your dignity is decaying
and waiting for a merciful exit.

POET'S NOTE: The movie star, Bette Davis, once said: "Old age ain't for sissies". I think she knew what she was talking about.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Tuesday Poem: "House of the Forgotten"

Like time travellers,
we arrived at the boarding house,
rare in our youth and togetherness.
Behind the brave smile
of the white, wooden facade
the men lived like mementoes
in sad, concrete shoeboxes.

It was the nadir of winter
and shadows seeped through the courtyard,
squeezing old lungs with icy fingers
until they wheezed like defective accordions.
In the drab lounge room
television held out its flickering promises to them
as they sat on musty furniture in mustier suits.
The kerosene heater could not dispel
the coldness of their hope.

At six o’clock, we assembled
in the ’50s functional ugliness dining room
where they used the arctic cutlery
to cut each other down to size.
The car accident man whose disfigured face
was reduced to spouting clich├ęs,
the man whose heart was devoured by the bottle,
the man who walked miles every day
but had nowhere to go,
the man whose wife had turned him out
for fear of catching his self-pity
and the friendless young man
who had never learnt to listen.

It seemed almost sinful
to look forward
to the European summer
when some of these men
would die forgotten
in the Australian winter.

POET'S NOTE: This winter has seemed a particularly cold one and some of you may have read about the accommodation crisis in Christchurch that Gerry Brownlee denies we are having. However, there are people living in cars or in substandard housing for whom the winter is a brutal ordeal.

Recently, the single men who lived in the blocks of council flats over our back fence made the front page of The Press because they were given only five days to vacate the complex because the city council deemed it unsafe due to earthquake damage. Some of them had lived there for many years.

These things reminded me of a poem I had written years ago when my first wife and I stayed in a boarding house for a couple of weeks between our rental lease expiring and our departure for Europe.

The poet wishes to acknowledge The Press in whose pages this poem appeared.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Tuesday Poem: "Telempathy"

Hollywood wouldn’t last five minutes
if an actor said:
“Darling, we’re so wrong for each other.”
But my avant-garde emotions
never scripted good sense.
It’s all experiment and instinct,
fiercely independent of the studio system.
Logic never bankrolled my heart.

“Quiet on the set!”
Cue sound: English modern black soul-R’n’B hybrid.
Roll film and “Action!”

Man driving alone
through Taranaki sharp frosted glass night
trying to enter the dreams
of a woman who sleeps
somewhere in this city.

She has told him there’s no profit in pursuit,
but she might just as well
tell a dog not to have fleas.
He cannot stop
thinking about her.

POET'S NOTES: Apologies to the readers and my fellow Tuesday Poets for the late posting, but I've just returned from helping out with a week-long camp for the Christchurch Boys Choir in Nelson. The choir, of which my youngest son is a member, are a treble voice choir and they did several performances in Nelson all of which were exceptionally well received. They even scored a photo and article on page two of the Nelson Mail.

Also, it's school holidays. But here it is, better late than never. I hope you've already been enjoying the many wonderful poems posted by my fellow Tuesday Poets.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Tuesday Poem: Another Flash Fiction: "The Stealth of the Beast"

It started gradually as it usually does. Like a still autumn day when the warming sunshine through the windows gives way to a creeping chill as dusk approaches.
We thought human rights were only trampled on in distant countries that we saw on the news. How many dictators had we heard invoking “emergency powers” to suppress dissension among their populaces?
It came a little closer after those Fijian coups. Our outrage and condemnation were strident, but we still sneaked off to the airport to make good our winter escape. And, as we lounged poolside, writing postcards to our friends and relatives who shivered at home, we couldn’t imagine our smiling, happy-go-lucky waiters and waitresses as an angry mob rampaging through the streets of Nadi or Suva.
Then Mother Nature delivered an unexpected gift to our government and their corporate allies to advance their agenda. Perhaps it was revenge for the callous, indifferent way we had been treating her.
A powerful, destructive earthquake in a major city gave the government the opportunity to enact special legislation. In the immediate aftermath of this disaster, this seemed a reasonable, even sensible, thing to do.
But, as time wore on, the beast revealed more of its claws. The wishes of the people were ignored or trampled on. Our political masters urged us to put our faith in “the Market”.
   The mythical Market failed to deliver and some people who’d lost their homes were forced to sleep in their cars.
No one knows if the politicians were blinded by ideology or had their palms greased, but they handed power to large multinationals. Then we were done for.
We’d had the fight ground out of us. When they closed the schools and transported our children to labour camps, we put up very little resistance.

POET'S NOTE: Okay, okay, last flash fiction and then I'll go back to poetry. I promise.