The first days
I am born into service. My womb darns herself,
nipples crack open, weep.
I look at you asleep, lying open to the world,
arms flung above your head in the middle of our bed,
twitching as your body fires up, settles in.
My mouth gapes. I’m like a fish in the bedroom
gasping for words.
Those 4pm blues
that void between tea-time and dinner
stranded on the settee,
with nothing to hold on to but my baby daughter
– the gulf at the end of the school day
with no home to go back to,
I forego the sticky willy iced buns,
the chatter of tea,
repair to the dormitory, transition to mufti,
taste that empty pocket of space
before trooping to classroom for prep,
then chapel to pray.
My father has hooded eyes and a hooked nose.
He cocks his head when he contemplates his quarry.
He is a solitary man – seeks freedom up mountains,
soars on his skis.
Fascinated by the bright plumage in park aviaries
he eyes the Ara macaws in their cage.
He too has his wings clipped – his soul is outraged.
In the month before my father-in-law dies
a resident slips into his room
to steal his chocolate supplies.
We watch the thief from the terrace.
In another home, a senior citizen
wheels himself into my father’s room.
Bent over his remote Dad seems not to notice,
but at dinner confides, That man’s been paying me visits.
Newly enrolled at Le Berceau
I wheel plastic trucks on the garden slabs,
babble with my new friend, Anne.
In class the two elderly women
tape my mouth shut.
The lesson unfolds before my eyes.
They chide me for sliding behind the piano
where I press my ear against its singing wood
Pocket-size picture frame
A thickness of blonde curls spills
to the edge of the oval. Two eyes
with the gaze of a seer look through me
to the future.
The child’s face is bleaching back
to its beginnings, chubby contours
fade into the present.
I strive to prize open the frame
to reach the baby behind the glass.
I notice three tiny pinheads around the gold rim
– pull them out from the blue cobalt velvet backing –
remove myself from half a century’s enclosure.
If you have any thoughts on these poems, Hélène Demetriades
would be pleased to hear them.