We are between floors.There are no windows.
A finite space. Clear boundaries. No surprises.
We look in the direction of travel
Though we have no control of our descent.
Whose face do those green sparkling heels belong to?
I think of Jonah in his whale, How at first
It must have been like entering a cathedral at dusk
But when the whale sounded, how like this plummeting lift.
Knees brace discretely. Men spread their feet.
Those green heels wobble. We stop. Door glides open.
Dante or Milton may have called it Hell, the barrier
Of bulging briefcases and Lego faces waiting there,
Inert, to ascend. Those heels tap. Someone pushes.
Every second counts. Goodbye Jonah. This is lunchtime.
Parents bunched at the start/finish line
All leaning in one direction,
Eyes on a corner of a classroom
Across the playing field
Where tall trees cast dark shadows
On such a sunny day.
They had temporarily lost all knowledge
Of the whereabouts of their five year olds
Who had run away from them
Around a much nearer corner
And gone, who knows how far away.
Some grandparents among those waiting
Remembered Apollo 8, Christmas 1968
Disappearing behind the moon
And we on Earth waiting in the dark,
Not knowing what to say
Or even how to pray.
Three crosses in the trees,
Three small white tee shirts,
The first children out of gloom into glory.
And the parents not knowing
Till this moment -Who ? Who? –
How their five year old had measured up.
The three front runners raced past, waving, winners.
Back then the astronauts had quoted Genesis,
Mission Control jumped up and down,
And Earthlings squared their shoulders and knew
Three of their own had come out in front.
Losing things becomes more dangerous the older we get
Because others assume our decline into oblivion
So we search alone.
Searching is frightening because it is time-travel, backwards,
Remembering what we were thinking and who we were
When we lost the thing.
We lose things because we have things to lose.
Our temper, rings, hair, family keepsakes,
And our dignity.
Sometimes we find something we weren’t looking for –
Coins in a pocket, faith, love,
An old friend in need.
Today I will pre-empt loss by discarding everything,
Then I will stand on the lawn and watch dandelions
All their sky-bound seeds.
In June it is not only the last leaves that fall.
Everywhere in every garden grapefruit, oranges, mandarins, lemons, limes,
Hang on thin stalks, dangling memories of summer sun,
And we are ungrateful.
They thud on the shed roof, roll in the sagging gutter,
Plash to the lawns, the berms, the courtyards, the decks, the pavements,
Their generosity too profuse, too prolific,
And we are ungrateful.
Six perfect mandarins, at the supermarket, in a plastic box,
Each one with a label to make it real.
The fruit is dry in the centre,
Segment divisions like furry polar fleece.
We say you can’t get good oranges these days,
And we are ungrateful.
When I strut Auckland’s ridges,
Treading its burnt bones
I’m like a tall lady in a crinoline.
I can’t stop my hands from fluttering,
Smoothing down the sloping silk,
As I admire the streets and trees swirling from me
On the Glenfield, Parnell or Ponsonby ridge lines.
Best of all, I circle the top of Mt Eden’s crater
With all Maungawhau tumbling from my waist band.
With two rising fifths the bugler
Breathes life into the Last Post
And we, eyes down, toes clawed
In best shoes, in the cold dawn,
Remember what we never knew:
A struggle for breath, maybe the last breath.
Afterwards, we wait for the car to warm up
And clear the windscreen tears.
We stare at the tiny bugle icon
On our steering wheel. “Hey…Why…?”
‘Didn’t you know,” the youngest groans.
It stands for ‘horn.”
We must remember something new.
Transformed by What He Digests
They are doing monarch butterflies at school.
The caterpillars rear, swivel and stretch,
Turning their leaf pages slowly.
After school, on the couch the boy lies long,
Black shorts and black and white top,
A big illustrated book wide open in front of him.
He has emerged from the classroom chrysalis
And morphed into a bookerfly.
I lift his tense body, making sure
The special blanket is wrapped round him
And not caught in the ruck of bedding.
I stagger to the couch in the bay window
Half of which is bathed in street lamp light,
A soft white on the tired grey upholstery.
4 am. Quiet. No cars on the road.
I massage his plump feet and sing the cramp away.
4.15. Still no cars. Not one.
“Is that better now?” I ask my grandson.
“Sing more songs,” he smiles, eyes shut.
And I do.