Old Becky’s in her garden, delving among roots,
Cutting away dead wood, caressing shoots.
All this June morning, she has given her garden love
Tough as the fabric of her gardening glove.
She’s a no-nonsense woman; her words are earthy words.
She calls a spade a spade; she calls turds turds.
How old is she? As well ask how old’s that
Ridiculous and ragged old sun hat.
As well ask why the sun is blazing gold;
As well ask why she loves the limping old
Fat spaniel whose idea of summer fun
Is stretching indolent in the summer sun
And watching as she plods around the plot.
Dogs, children, husbands: these are what
Her life has been. Husbands both buried now.
Children all visit when their lives allow,
And relish her gruff love and plenteous food.
The dog’s grown old with her, and now his mood
Is slow contentment. She was at his birth
And soon she’ll bury him beneath this earth.
For in this garden it is understood
That death is natural, and the earth is good.
Millennial Kaz is hunched up in despair;
She sobs: ‘I wish that I was made of air.’
She hates her body’s dumb solidity
And achingly desires she could be free
Of all that it implies; she hates the feeling
That men might find a girl like her appealing.
She wants to hide from males’ appraising stare.
She longs to be invisible as air,
Unseen, unjudged, and to escape somehow
From the oppressive ties of here and now.
She now and then gives in to fantasies
She’s someone else; she is not who she is.
Then she’d owe nothing to the parents who
Gave her the cosiest of lives and sent her to
Expensive schools that processed her to be
A person shamed by inauthenticity.
She wishes, though to think it is absurd,
That she could thus escape the debts incurred
By her culture’s long repellent history
Of Empire, privilege and slavery,
And so much else. She feels the need
To not be here, to never have to feed
On other living things just to exist.
She punishes herself; her slender wrist
Bears scars from when her loathing of the world
Turns inward. Now she’s sobbing, curled
Up like a chrysalis; she wants to cast
Off burdens of her body and the past,
For there are moments when she eyes the skies
And its uncompromised extent, and cries:
‘Let me be newborn, innocent, new-hatched;
Let me fly, owing nothing, unattached,
Unburdened by a history, sex or shape
Into the air, my element. Let me escape!’
Frank’s at the barbecue, wielding his carving-fork,
Flourishing tongs, he’s the model of manliness,
Meat in his nostrils and fire in his eyes.
Tamer of charcoal and master of marinades,
Ruling a grand carnivore cornucopia:
Denver steaks, sausages, drumsticks and thighs.
Listening to hissing of fat meeting charcoal fire,
Wallowing in wonder at barbecue alchemy,
Treating the meat with devoted respect,
Knowing some names of those darkening chemicals
(Furans and pyrazines, thiophenes, furanones)
Born of the magical Maillard effect.
Frank in his apron is Frank in his element,
Primitive now as a priest at a sacrifice,
Thrilled to his almost Neanderthal core.
Oh his deep joy as those scents fill the garden now -
Pleasure that’s doubled imagining how they must
Get up the nose of the vegan next door.
Rain batters at the window-pane;
Jack’s turned to water once again.
It’s now two months since Marjory died;
He should be over it; he’s tried.
To take advice, be positive,
To put this all behind him, live.
No use, so once again he’ll weep
His way into a kind of sleep.
And he will dream of time whose flow
Compels the way that he must go;
His life is just a leaky boat
That struggles to stay half-afloat,
Helpless on this one-way track,
Which allows no turning back
And in his dream he can’t pretend
The river has a wanted end.
The dream tells him: No use to fight.
This is his life; this is his plight;
It’s what it is, what it must be,
And so he feels the water seep
Into the life beyond his sleep.
To be there when, grim-faced and grey,
He wakes to another rainy day.
If you have any
thoughts about these poems, George Simmers
would be pleased to hear them