31.5.21

Oneself

 Oneself

I never married another poet,

though I married two writers –

and indeed, my first husband

(who was not a writer) 

once wrote a poem, 

and so did my third, just once. 

Guess you can’t be married 

to a poet without something, 

however unusual, rubbing off.


But mostly how strange 

it was, how uncanny – 

to be in such close

and intimate relationship

– for with each there was

a sharing of thoughts,

confidences, and the way

one comes to know another 

when living so near, so


together in the same space;

almost as if becoming one

with the other person, the spouse 

(as we’re taught in Romance) – 

yet there’s a part of one’s life, 

one’s self, that can never quite 

be understood except by another

poet: that’s simply the nature

of things and can’t be helped.


All the other poets

understand completely – no need

even for it ever to be said:

so well we all know, and know

that we know. Even if one hates 

their ethics, their politics, their 

hangers-on, even if one despises 

their disgusting or puerile or 

decorative verse. Even then.


My husbands understood me

more or less well. Until they

didn’t, or died, whichever came first. 

Not uncommon, I suppose. 

Except there was just this one 

aspect they could never quite grasp 

though they tried. And it’s the core.... 

But I don’t think I’d like

to be married to another poet


and anyway I’m never

likely to be, now. As for

the lovers, some never even knew

I had poetry. (Though that was

early days – and lesser lovers.)

Well, many of my friends are poets.

Or artists, who understand too.

And there’s the me inside me

after all, understanding perfectly.



Submitted to Weekly Scribblings #72 at Poets and Storytellers United, where Magaly invites us to use any or all of the words unusual, uncommon, uncanny.


29.5.21

The Other Cats #3: The feral

The other cats #3: The feral

(Cats I don't really count as mine.  See also #1 and #2.) 

 

The kids grew up, started uni, moved out. Bill and I sold up and bought a country property.

Our cats, Ishtar and Sam, adored the place: fourteen acres, half of it uncleared bush. They were neutered, but we said Sam got his balls back. He started doing macho things like leaving uncovered scat on rocks: an assertive territorial message.

A big black cat started hanging around. Young, male, wary — one of the ferals our neighbours had mentioned. We wondered about taming it, but were going on holiday.

When we returned, our house-sitters told us they’d reached the point where ‘Blackie’ (their name for him) would let the man hold him. 
‘He's a nice boy,’ they said.

We tried wooing Blackie ourselves. One time he came close enough and stayed long enough for me to sketch him. I'd been doing a landscape, just mucking about. I made haste to draw him where there was space, in the blank sky.

Sam started picking on Ishtar, as if to drive her away. Incomprehensible! They
d always been close. 

I began hearing Blackie make strange calls. Sam would go out, walking stiffly, self-consciously, bringing Blackie food. It became apparent they were both bullying Ishtar. I'd rescue her, but couldn’t always be there. She was in a constant state of terror, losing weight, looking sick. Sam clearly wasn’t happy either, made to do Blackie’s dirty work, though he obeyed meekly. Not so macho after all.

No way would I have my sweet, gentle Ishtar victimised. We lured Blackie into a crate, slammed it shut, phoned the vet. I explained: feral cat terrorising ours. Would he put it down? (I'd pay.) He would. 

Imprisoned, Blackie went crazy. Bill reached between the slats to soothe — and pulled his fingers out fast as Blackie lunged, shrieking in rage.

‘I phoned about getting this cat put down,’ I told the girl on reception.

‘Ohhh! Would you like to sit with him and say goodbye?’

‘You’ve misunderstood the situation. Be careful opening that cage.’ I walked out.

Sam and Ishtar, hugely relieved, became themselves again.

~~~~~~~~~~~~


A long time later I found the sketch. His black shape floated in the sky.

‘I drew him as a ghost!’ I thought.

 

Shared with Poets and Storytellers United via Writers' Pantry #72.

 

26.5.21

Waiting: Tanka


Waiting: Tanka


Leaves fall.

I’ll wait for you

all winter.

With new leaves,

shall you return?


*********


Are you only

a warm weather lover?

I dreamed of you

hugging me through the cold –

how long must I wait?



I see these tanka as variations on a theme rather than a sequence.


Written for my  own prompt: Waiting, Weekly Scribblings #71 at Poets and Storytellers United. What with Lili Marlene featured in the prompt as an example of waiting, I felt like trying something a little romantic. And it's autumn here. 


20.5.21

The Other Cats #2: The invader

The Other Cats #2: The Invader 

(Continuing the tales of cats I tend to forget I ever had.  See #1.)


Rainbow (named for her unusual, multi-coloured eyes) moved in shortly before my firstborn started crawling. 


A big cat, white with some grey and tan patches, she was a stray. We already had my beloved Guinivere. But Rainbow was insistent. She started coming in the cat door and helping herself to Guinivere’s food, boldly and blatantly. Unwilling to refuse an animal in need, I began setting out another plate for her.


She fed like a stray, growling possessively, gobbling fast. If Guinie came close, Rainbow hiss-growled, threatening with raised claws. I started feeding them in separate places. Distance established, they ignored each other.


I never warmed to Rainbow. Despite moving in, she wasn’t sociable. I hoped time would soften her.


Then she had kittens in the laundry. So that was why she muscled in! Our Scotch Collie appointed herself guardian of the kittens, allowing Rainbow to leave them occasionally to feed or relieve herself. As they got older, she left them longer in Lassie’s care, to explore the house.


One day my baby son crawled towards Rainbow. I never let little kids near animals because they treat them like toys. They don’t understand, until taught, gentleness to living things. But Rainbow didn’t know me well enough to trust me to protect her. Before I could intervene, she lashed out, clawing his face just beneath his eye, drawing blood.

(A thing Guinivere, knowing both herself and the baby as family, would never have done.)


They were nowhere near the kittens. Still half-wild, Rainbow was protecting herself. I nearly fainted at the thought that, a fraction higher, she might have blinded him!


I phoned the Cat Protection Society, who agreed to take Rainbow and family. When the kittens were old enough, they’d find them homes. They suggested Rainbow might suit an older couple without children. 


The kittens were too young to leave their mother, but old enough to travel (contained) by car. It was easy getting Rainbow to come: she wouldn't be parted from them.


In some ways I admired Rainbow, although I didn’t like her.  She chose cleverly where to be looked after while having her babies. If she hadn’t attacked my baby.…

 

She was never 'my' cat.



(Continued with #3)

 

Shared with Poets and Storytellers United via Writer's Pantry #71.

19.5.21

The Other Cats: #1. The forgotten

The Other Cats #1: The Forgotten


I say my latest is number eight. Not true; she’s really the eleventh. I could list my eight in loving detail. Those other three I don’t count, and tend to forget. 


Let’s count them, this once.


#1 The forgotten.

#2 The invader.

#3 The feral.


I mostly forget #1. How could that be? He was my first – or she? – and I’d always longed for a cat. I remember what she looked like: small, black-and-white, scarcely past kitten-hood.

Where did I get him? What was her name? I probably answered an ad. Something in a shop – or house – window? A neighbour whose cat had kittens?


I was renting a house with two other young women: my first independence. Of course I got a cat! They didn’t mind, so long as all care and feeding was mine. 


They worked full-time. I was a student, living near the uni, with time between lectures. I guess I spent some time home with the cat. I recall she was outside a lot during the day. I think I brought him into my bedroom at night.

I was poor. A scholarship took care of student fees but little else. There must have been a meagre living allowance. Also I pawned things; seldom reclaimed them. Many weeks I lived on a head of lettuce; sixpence worth of mincemeat (a lot back then) which I shared with the cat; and oranges which one of the others had plentifully, from her family who grew them. I remember the cat eating eagerly, at her little bowl near the laundry. I must have named him; no idea what.


After a year, our tenancy ended. I went home for long vacation (across Bass Strait, from Melbourne to Tasmania). What did I do with the cat? I vaguely think I advertised, and gave it to a neighbouring family.


How could I, always feline-besotted, forget my first cat?


‘Some people break down very quietly,’ said my psychiatrist, a few years later. 'No-one notices.'

I look back and see I was already starting to break down then: so quietly, I myself didn’t realise yet. 


Could I even connect with a cat? Surely I was kind, responsible? 


I don’t remember.




(To be continued. See #2 and #3.)



For Weekly Scribblings #70 at Poets and Storytellers United, Rommy asks us to write a list poem, or a piece of prose that incorporates the idea of a list. Although this piece does that, and even supplies the list, I apologise that it doesn't complete the details. I expect that will take two more episodes.

9.5.21

I Am the Poem

 I Am the Poem


I am the poem 

I wrote before I was born.

I am the poem 

I write new every day.


I am the poem

of light iridescent.

I am the poem

that shines in the dark.


I am the poem

the leaf makes in the wind.

I am the poem

the wind fashions with leaves.


I am the poem

that ripples across the river.

I am the poem

the mountain etches on cloud.


I am the poem

the rain sings to the earth.

I am the poem

the sky prints on the ocean.


I am the poem

the ocean bellows.

I am the poem

the stars investigate.

I am the poem

that writes itself new every day.

I am the poem

God wrote before I was born.




Inspired by Magaly Guerrero's wonderful statement, 'I am the poem nature wrote with her teeth', posted on Instagram. She invited people to replace her last five words with their own. I completely failed to register the word 'five' in the instructions when I responded with my first statement above. Her idea excited me so much that I went on to pour out this whole poem. Then I noticed the bit about five words! Some of my lines do have five words after the opening phrase, but plenty don't. However I'm reluctant to alter them now.


Sharing with Writers' Pantry #75 at Poets and Storytellers United.



7.5.21

Her Garden

Her Garden

for Linda Lyberg



her shadow moves

through the slow video

of her garden


her abundant garden

greens the desert’s edge


her little dog

down the end of the path

runs to meet her


though the camera blanks

I can still see them there




(in response to a video posted on facebook)


This looks like a renga, because I thought it worked better with the verse breaks as they are shown – but it was all written by one person (me) and is really a two-tanka sequence.


5.5.21

An Afternoon in Murwillumbah

 An Afternoon in Murwillumbah


In the grove, the Goddesses gather

in bright velvet cloaks, in a small semi-circle 

of folding chairs overlooking a gully.

Four are white-haired, two fair, one dark.


On the ground we have placed yellow flowers

and a statuette of Gaia, rounded and fecund.

(There’s a dragonfly drawn on her belly

and a long carved braid down her back.)


We settle, breathe. With the tips of our tongues

we taste the air. We close our eyes. Shrill birds,

too high for us to see, call and call in the trees.

We open our eyes, let them take in all we see.


Because it’s a grove, I speak the Druid prayer.

Then our Grandmother Goddess leads us

in a meditation for the Earth. We each become

a raindrop, falling through branches.


The raindrop enters the stream. The stream

descends underground, feeds plants

and the roots of trees, heads to join the river….

We hear the constant sound of moving water.


After we bring ourselves back, resurfacing,

a fat black dog from the park behind us,

not much older than a puppy, pounds the grass

and dashes in amongst us, full of joy.


We hug the dog, and greet the unknown woman

who follows, laughing, to fetch her – 

not at all startled to find us here in our cloaks 

contemplating the gully under the tall trees.


This little town between river and mountain 

is matter-of-fact about things like that.

‘You’ve been meditating,’ she says. We agree, 

standing and gathering our stuff.


‘I saw all the cars,’ she says. ‘I thought the park

would be full of dogs to play with. When I saw

it was empty, I let her off her leash.’ We assure her

it’s fine. The dog gets in a few more happy hugs.



Written for Weekly Scribblings #68: Where Are You Placed? at Poets and Storytellers United. Murwillumbah is a rural town in the sub-tropical Northern Rivers region of New South Wales, Australia, a little south of the Queensland border and half an hour's drive inland from the coast.





























1.5.21

A Pause in the Long Goodbyes

  A Pause in the Long Goodbyes


My night cat prowls the house

deliberately, yowling low, 

glaring at things I can’t see – 

but I think I know.


I was told she hates other cats 

and will want to attack. 

This Samhain night,

I feel the others here.


Tonight is a pause

in the long goodbyes

made to each in turn –

my guardians, my dear familiars.


How strange it must be

for her, confronting 

their unknown, shadowy ghosts

in a place they know and claim.

 

Them, they‘d surely understand

she is the one who loves me now, 

whose presence keeps me happy, 

healthy, safe. My new protector.


But not from them,

I try to tell her. To them 

I indicate: this one has the right

to be here with me, now.


She calms as midnight 

comes and passes. 

Stroking her, I bless 

and remember them.


















Poetic Asides prompt #30 for April 2021: A goodbye poem.


Written and photographed as it was happening.