Where I went wrong

by Pamela Newham

I think it was when I saw
that picture of you
in guerilla gear
smiling at someone unknown
in the jungles of Myanmar
an AK47 resting across your arms
that I knew where I’d gone wrong.
I should never have said,
You can do anything you want.
There’s no place you cannot go.
I should have handed you
needle and thread instead.
I should have said,
Stay at home, darling girl.
Let me teach you how to sew.

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Love-Child

by Cornelia Rohde

Marlene, Marlene,
love-child
of a lonely railway baron,
riding tall on a white stallion,
his tack buffed, his face tan,
an imposing man of passion.

His lonely wife
a withered invalid,
her brittle bones leached
by the white island sun.
When his cook’s honeyed hips sashay,
his loins ache, but not for long.

Marlene,
fair-faced love-child
of a rich railway baron,
birthed in his grand house,
allowed to sit his saddle with him.
Beware, beware the envy
of my other bastards.

Marlene, Marlene,
love-child of a railway baron.

They’ll rip your young flesh
when I die,
feed you poison,
kill you for your fortune.
You won’t last long
in the scheming hills
of Port-au-Prince.
You must flee at night
with our chaplain.

Marlene, Marlene,
lonely heiress
of a railway baron,
her childhood spent
in foster homes in Ireland,
restless at the Sorbonne,
yearning for her island,
hears her dying mother’s song
float across the ocean.

Marlene, Marlene,
love-child of a railway baron.

Her father’s will states she wed
before she can return.
Married in cold blood, without love,
she flies across the blue-black sea
to search for her lost legacy,
takes on chance lovers,
breaks three husbands,
births seven children of seven colors.

Marlene,
born again,
speaks in tongues
to query heaven.

Marlene, Marlene,
ever lonely love-child
of a railway baron.

The Moth

by Annette Snyckers

On Aunt Miem’s kitchen wall
there was a moth – not a moth
that just sat there, the way moths
sometimes sit and drowse
under the warm glow of a lamp –
also not a fluttering moth
that bumbles forth into the flame
that will scorch its wings –
just a small drab moth
painted with care,
trapped forever
on an ordinary wall
above the kitchen table.
It looked content there
with my aunt and two cousins,
and never
fell in their soup.

I was seven
and mad about that moth,
but the unknown painter
I loved secretly.

In my handwoven house

by Elizabeth Trew

tough stems, hot from a field of Ganges jute
has threads held tight on the widest loom

grandmother’s runner spun from rags
patterns her Nordic blues and reds

kelims – saffron and peach inside black
diamonds were woven by Irani daughters

a jade carpet made by a child in Egypt
has birds and trees and flowering plants

and through the open door I blink
bands so bright of Ashanti cloth

colours shapes gathered picked
weavers’ hands, farmers’ feet.

Upon the Bridges of London

by Lise Day

Breath-air blooms the frosty night on Westminster Bridge
a child pirouettes her way from Covent Garden to the station
the shimmer of Christmas lights is on the dark water.

On a soft spring morning the great arches of London Bridge
frame the pollarded trees outside Tate Britain
sticky buds fluttering tiny flags of emerald green.

High summer we bounce across the Millenium Bridge
heads full of Tate Modern art towards St Peter’s dome
pearlescent in the long level rays of sun.

The great bascule arms of Tower Bridge lift high in a pale sky,
the red buses pause, allowing the passage
of a full-rigged yacht on her way to sea.

Now the outgoing tide will drag away the blood of terror.
In the morning the river will rise afresh, wash the city clean
as all that mighty heart is beating still.

The Spinney Retirement Village

by Lise Day

Transplanted to the Spinney
I will have to become a tree.
First I favour the Willow
slender, bending in the breeze
but it’s too late for slender,
perhaps wise to be less pliable
to withstand the thorny thicket.
A Silver Birch attracts, poetic,
trunk white as age-streaked hair
leaves that flutter in late light.
I hope not to be a Crab-apple
mouth all puckered and bitter.
There’s the Weeping Bride’s Bush
but all that’s behind me now.
I love the Jacaranda tree
fronds bent with purple blooms,
constantly reminding students
that it is time to study now,
fitting for a retired teacher,
but due to be rooted out,
not indigenous enough.
I am more indigenous than exotic
so reject the unsmiling Wattles,
with turkey chins all drooping.
I will try not to be a Cross-berry
when nearby brambles prickle.
Cannot be a Common Cabbage tree
or unpleasant Hook Thorn
scratchy, catching on trivial things.
I think I’ll settle for the River Indigo
multi-stemmed, graceful,
pink flowers, soft green leaves
even in times of drought,
adaptable, easily transplanted.

Monkey Puzzle

by Pamela Newham

 
While your fellows press their small faces
with all-too-human eyes against the glass
you hang back,
unsure,
like a teenager in a dress her mother made.
Then, unable to resist, you swing onto the deck
and that’s when I see and understand why
you are shy.

Some simian skin disease?
A pot of unwatched paint?
A spray to chase you away?

I find, these days, there are few things
that astonish and amaze
But you did it,
high in a bushveld tree
(the absurdity)
one small pink monkey.

Amazon

by Michael Keeling

It was like swimming in silk,
warm, cloying and relaxing.
Shampoo lathered in the soft water
as our guide made the most of his ablutions.

We canoed to a quiet stretch of river
where a thin nylon line with baited hook
served us as fishing tackle.

An immediate swirl denoted a bite
and, within minutes, we had six fish
proudly displayed.

Puttering upstream to a floating house
We were welcomed by the owner.
Felicitations elicited the promise of a meal.

Fried, with a sprinkling of lemon juice,
they were delicious.
Whoever would have guessed
we had been swimming with piranhas?

 

Te Deum

by Cornelia Rohde

In the growing light,
wild ginger‘s sweet breath
scents banks of canals
flowing through green rice fields
in Haiti’s Artibonite Valley.

The slow ascent up rocky trails becomes
too steep for half-starved horses.
My mare sags and folds.
You gently coax her up,
walk her with a lead;
offer me your sturdier mount.

We stop for water
in a playful stream;
peel our clothes off in the heat.
You chase me laughing
through beds of zesty watercress.
The gleam in your eyes
warms me well beyond
the blaze of the sun.

The path stretches long through hills
rising blue in back of blue.
From mountains beyond mountains
rises a swelling te deum,
camphor of praise-song to guide us.
We reach a small stone sanctuary
in the half-light of vespers.
Te deum laudamus lifts the sky.

In the quiet night of crisp stars,
the parish curé
offers fresh-baked bread,
handmade cheese, wine,
his clear-eyed faith,
a simple bed for rest.

Catch

by Annette Snyckers

That holiday
when we camped
almost on the beach –
the lazy afternoons
drooped from the Milkwoods.
My parents slept and I,
in my bubble bathing suit,
I challenged the waves –
over and over
walls of liquid glass
rose up and I stood
until the very last moment,
just before
the wave would curl over
and crash down,
then I turned,
and ran as fast as I could
on spindly legs
like a sandpiper.

The thrill, the need
to outrun a living force
licking my heels –
sea smell,
gull cries,
my heart a hammer.

When my parents woke up,
we had tea and rusks.
I never told them
how fast I could run.