On the 4th of September 1995
I returned to an empty house,
a wall of anger ran through me and around me.
It took a week for the wall to crumble,
standing at the cash register at work
the sobs rose up from a pit way down low.
For several hours I sobbed and howled
in the office out back of the store.
Evelyn the store manager came and went
and when she could – just sat and listened.
3 days later my mother and father arrived
for 2 weeks they stayed
their child, the grown man needed care
mother cleaned all the shelves and cupboards
cleaned all the clothes and ironed shirts
father tried to find me answers
but in the end – just sat and listened.
After they went home, the house slowly lost their comfort,
shelves and cupboards returned to slight disorder
one by one ironed shirts were worn, never again to feel the same.
Hanging in its place I left one shirt untouched,
now and again I would open the wardrobe
to feel my mother in the sleeve.
10 years later we are speaking
on the phone about the children,
all of them young men now and mostly independent
you talk about wanting to see them more often
but it’s hard to arrange, you tell me about your new man
and how things are working out.
In a moment of candor you speak of the past
confessing it should never have happened.
Who would have thought that in the end
it would be me, who just sat and listened.
I woke at 2.30am and left you sighing gently as you slept,
checked the trap but found only droppings on the floor
I set the trap again and hoped the rats would leave –
I would prefer not to kill anything.
The dog mawed and moaned at its fleas
rubbing against the rail on the back verandah,
it settled when I whished it back inside to sit
(my mouth made that wist noise, the one you know the dog will hear but won’t wake the sleeping).
I lay on the red couch in the study and read Ray Carver.
A return to Carver simplifying me. If not by sleep I was
comforted by his weave of innocence and knowledge.
Ray started writing poetry in the year I was born (1957),
I don’t know why I mention this, perhaps I feel him like a kindred
spirit and am warmed by even the slightest connection.
Between the living and the dead are the sleeping. However being at rest
is no excuse for ignorance. Ray is at rest – some 18 years.
His poems like me are alive and breathing.
The magpies begin their morning carol as I return to bed before dawn.
Your breath and skin have waited for me.
When we wake, I tell you,
I am grateful our poem continues.
A little empty that morning
she sat on the top step
of the verandah
sipping tea, sipping thought.
Three steps down to the pavement
squares of sandstone
lay in even handed rhythms;
flatly refusing to contour.
He’d moved away last week; big bloke, big smile
could clasp four pavers in one hand,
laid the lot inside ten days,
maybe a record, who could say.
Completed, the pavement was now empty of him,
no more scraping back, no more chipping out,
no more broad smiling hands
reaching for her cups of tea.
She missed this; as she missed the slightly flat renditions of
‘midnight oil’ and ‘fleetwood mac’, the cock of his straw hat
and the farewell call of… “see you sometime in the morning suze…”
(always at exactly 6.30 a.m.)
He was big on tea,
said he was glad
to meet someone who knew it
wasn’t merely the dis-colouration of milk.
She’d smile at that, he was right,
things like tea were best, given time to infuse.
she sipped her tea, sipped her thoughts
and the deeper taste that came with a little time.
The three of you
waving your brave little hands,
smiling love and mischief at me
through the tinted glass
of the big green bus.
I’m standing tight to the kerb
screaming at the concrete
as I smile
waving back with gusto.
‘I love you ‘
mouthed in silence
‘have I failed you’
a silent question.
I wave until you’ve turned the corner –
gone in a juggernaut like
the street where we laughed
only a minute ago
now more empty than a new coffin.
I walk back to the car knowing we will go through this
again and again
– every time you visit for the weekend.
Jan and I and Anthea walked around Lake Burley Griffin this morning, the air was fresh and the lake, graceful and serene offering rippled reflections as wisps of mist lifted with the breeze. Over-head two hot air balloons moving gracefully and purposefully across a clear sky.
From the yellow balloon, children waved to us with great enthusiasm. Invigorated, we watched for a while, then went on. The balloon for sky.