The memories, the hawk, the rabbit, the woman considering herself as a portrait, and the demoiselle. That’s a hefty lot of self awareness for the week. More poems to be read again and again.
The poets are Irene Hossack, Pete Mackey, Wynn Weldon, Sally James, and Uche Ogbuji.
Previously published poems are welcomed for this rolling anthology. Different poems every Sunday.
Love Letter To My Family
I remember everything. I remember for instance
a birthday meal at our favourite restaurant,
all of us dancing in the hallway at the bells,
spinning on the carnival rides at the Kelvin Hall,
building snowmen in the grounds of that
awful hotel on Christmas Eve, our wildness
not welcomed there. Joints and tarot readings
late at night, Wayne’s World on the TV,
eating noodles and pizza from down the road,
past the church and the City Bakeries. James Taylor,
and Shelleyan Orphan on CD.
I remember the beauty configured in snow-weighted trees
seen from the train as I travelled North, writing letters to absent friends,
wishing to stay here, not capturing but remaining somehow like this.
Lying under stars in the snow, enchanted, not feeling cold
and the dark-white-frost night lit by the moon and the stars.
And later, spending hours arguing lovingly
on the subject of truth and cultural difference,
trying to understand chaos theory
in between the sups from cups of Cadbury’s Crème.
Resting on Sunday afternoons with the fire blazing,
hearing ghost stories from uncles with not long to go,
giving us goosebumps on our skins, making
them so vulnerable and human as if for the first
time. We all share this desire for the inexplicable,
we share a family tree in whose roots we are entwined.
my spirit lives amongst your chaotic laundry
and microwaved Marks and Spencer’s food.
First published in Poetry Wales, April 1997.
The hawk changed by the second
Each scrap of grey Ohio sky
With the difference of its motion
Over the leafless trees and fallow
Black earth of early winter
Around that interstate we drove
After we buried him. I thought
A griever’s thought: It’s a message,
A quick, half-conceived thought
Trying to become belief. As if
The dead spoke in miraculous flight
Almost too quick to see—as a bird
Then a bird of prey. He’s gone.
That’s the cold truth. Stop thinking
That hawk followed something.
First published in 2007 in Innisfree Poetry Journal.
Image: Adam Grim Photography
Ten of us perhaps had already passed
and it was you, my friend, with whom I walked,
who noticed first the baby rabbit
bang in the middle of the lane, on its side,
an eye open, lightly breathing, barely living.
Obviously we had to put it from its misery.
I remembered killing a broken-winged pigeon
with a shovel, how it took two whacks at least,
how something inside it refused to die
or something inside me lacked courage to kill.
But you looked about, saw a single old glove,
mangy, filthy, forgotten at the wayside,
and declared that “that’s what it’s there for”,
took it from its yellowed plot, curled it in your palm,
and tenderly scooped up the baby rabbit,
and set it upright off the beaten track. We stared
for half a minute: no motion, but not dead either.
You were sanguine: better closer to the earth,
come life or death, than exposed on the path.
I was waiting for you, so you moved first.
I was waiting because whatever sentimental
anthropomorphism I had just witnessed
seemed not that at all, but a lesson in love,
and you do not leave before your teacher.
And you may wish one day for such a glove.
First published in The Interpreter’s House 49, 2012
Portrait of a woman
No Pre-Raphaelite ever painted me
No Madonna image reflected in my eyes
Or fallen woman begging for redemption,
I can only be found in the peaceful and tranquil setting
Of a Constable, whose rolling downs and trembling streams
Are the hallmarks of my anatomy,
Mother nature in repose perhaps?
Lowry captured my humble origins,
In his sad and lonesome matchstick figures
As they dash their weary way through street and town,
And, in my persecuted moments,
Turner captured me in his sunsets,
As the blood of the innocents splattered upon canvas.
Only Picasso knew me as I really am
As the dismembered being with the seeing eye,
Trying to make order out of chaos,
Yet, I am no masterpiece of classical imagery
Caught upon canvas,
I am the microscopic dot
Where pencil sketches begin,
To be moulded and shaped to life’s situations
By many gods, but dominated by none.
Then, when the great eraser of all time
Envelops me in her darkened mantle
And banishes me from being,
I will still remain, for those who have eyes to see,
The projected imagery of woman and the mother of time.
First published in Openings 8, Open University Poets Anthology 1990.
What’s happenin’ Butterfly? What’s happenin’?
Let’s go over this again…
Got people swaying like
Brown Grass. Mud sucking up
against our toes, horns blowing salt
Through our noses.
There’s a flower now.
Red like liquor in a brother’s heart,
Pushing through the joint
Like it’s about to break free.
But that can’t be your lipstick
Cause you wear no lipstick:
You’re a soul flame.
Every bush has its berry
With soft fingers and a long tongue,
Slow, wide open like a Sunday afternoon.
But she doesn’t fool me,
Alcohol all on her breath
Like a ghost in the window
Of an abandoned house.
Her hips don’t tell my hands like yours.
You’re a soul flame.
I know you’re hiding warm coals
Deep in your belly
And I need an oven to dry in—that’s word.
So settle in against my chest—
Don’t mind my wet shirt.
It’s about a quarter to the moon
Ripping Scorpio in two,
And pouring stars on our faces.
I’m open like naked skin on a summer night,
And you’re a soul flame.
“First published in Corium Magazine in 2010, issue 2.”