June

by Elizabeth Trew

June – my small sister, born in her month of rain
and in her second year
her month of death.

My mother never spoke of June.
Pain and death, she’d say, does not exist.
No doctor crossed her path.

June became a sunny picture done in coloured chalks.
She sits in a daisy field smiling out with dimpled cheeks.
She holds a flower between the rains of June.

I know a little about her death,
how barbed wire had snagged her flesh
and gushed its poison through her blood

turning her too deeply green.
I’d overhear dark mutterings from aunts
how a doctor could have saved her life.

all the flowers in my mother’s garden
bowed their heads as rainfall filled the sky that day
and soaked her earth with blood

I never knew what her Bible said,
know nothing about her silent grief.
Enough that I was born replacing June.

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A farm story

by Elizabeth Trew

All carefully kept on the sisters’ dairy farm:
two giant eucalypts – beloved and long dead
stand by the old house, now a Bed and Breakfast.
I arrive at dusk. Bees are busy
making honey inside a dead trunk,
Kei apples have fallen, lie under their trees,
guineafowl have flown into the pines to sleep
while calves in the herd gambol in the field.
All so very beautiful, one sister says to me
as she takes me through the house
of many ageing things all kept with care.
An old white wedding dress
hangs inside my room. I open a tin of hairpins
belonging to the bride.
I lie awake and feel the wind-mill turn and creak,
the bone-white trees and wedding dress
loom inside the night.
Between the living and the dead loveliness is there.

Becoming

by Elizabeth Trew

cannot lie still.
Winter swings round to rebirth its spring.
Light from the sun, pale as lemon flesh at dawn
is copper at noon, pewter at dusk.
Seed buried in volcanic ash can grow into a flower.
The daughter of a river-god
flies swifter than the wind into the woods
and turns into a tree.
A girl in a white nightdress can become a snow-queen,
a swan, or a snake.
An idea becomes a word
that permits all possible worlds.

Kristina

by Elizabeth Trew

My aunt spoke loud in her Nordic lilt –
louder when she was on the phone,
louder and slower when
she spoke to me.

She was dark stockings and boots
that strode down the hill
and knelt among sheep.
She was mended fishing nets.

We’d sit out in summer under the trees
with a jug of home-made juice.
Inside her house she’d look long
through glass at the waterfall
across the fjord.
Today he is big and strong, she’d say, or
Today he flows softer than before.

She was the steady gaze and the force
of falling water,
a keeper of nets and sheep
and new-laid eggs.
She was mid-summer bonfires along the fjord
and the stamp of boots that carried wood
for the indoor fire.
She was hearty soups and stews came
from her steamy kitchen.
She’d call me to lay the table.
Come eat! Eat and be strong, she’d say.

Leavings

by Elizabeth Trew

Potter
She is crafting something new
out of the clay
on her potter’s wheel –
some ghost of her past
curled into a ball

using water to soften
it ripples its skin in time
with the hum:
a small death of yesterday
taking residence today.

Mother
I remember your meaty breath
on my face
as you bent down with a kiss:
as I lean over to inhale
your last yeasty breaths
to savour, exhale, and kiss the sky.

Child
The women consoled and held her.
“I don’t know where to be!”
a mother cries out in shattered grief.
All she can see
are her tears in a leaden sky.
She will find somewhere
to pave her daughter’s lyrical step
in the rustle of leaves
and sound of bells.

Painter
I will paint my old friend in sombre colours
lying on his bitter green robe of grass
with a harsh white cloth over his face.
And his rooster in radiant shades of cinnabar,
the earth brown, and the bluish-green
rhythm of hills gently receding.

Freedom

by Liz Trew

leaves a window open
lifts the latch
lets itself out

Freedom travels across boundaries
passes dark hours, rides the tall wave
feels the furnace

Freedom pushes and struggles
cries and sheds blood
arrives different – new

Freedom waits, active and still
undoes and unwinds
looks behind – beyond

Freedom powers its own house
reaches
holds unknown music

Freedom unfreezes its streams
looks afresh
at the face of another

Freedom broods, gives birth
in the blood of itself
is never alone

 

 

 

One Precious Thing, from Rohingya Refugees

by Elizabeth Trew

Found poem

I bring from across the water
my make-up box – eyeliners and powder –
I love to make up my face.
I bring this bag of puffed rice –
my best thing to eat.
I bring this bottle of oil for my mother’s headaches –
I rub a little on her temples for relief.

I leave behind my cattle – bloated, dead on the shore.
They were like my children.
I am drawing all of them on this paper.
I am drawing my favourite yellow dress, burnt
in my burning village – draw it exactly
as it was – bright colour with belt and sequins.
I leave behind my father’s photo – handsome, strong man.
I am drawing his face to remember.

October

by Elizabeth Trew

moves in with foghorn and bells
blows sarongs and scarves
sweeps fallen leaves

it sends out its flares –
sunlight lengthens to lift
the gloom in my house
yellow nasturtiums nod to the bees
ice-blue watsonias bloom in profusion
after the fire

it prances and stumbles
old blood in my hands needles and burns

October steadies and turns
marches towards the union buildings;
a police car is torched
there is blood in the streets.

Lotus

by Elizabeth Trew

To be as the lotus – rising flower
rooted in mud of murky waters
bud-head and heart wrapped in petals

each day lifts its stem and ascends above water
unfolds, opens its radiance – pinks – purples – yellows
translucent in light

at nightfall closes its petals
descends to dwell in dark waters
holding its lightness: elixir within.

dance the more glory

by Elizabeth Trew

gentle strong dancer dancing into the world
dance again solo on the red hill

swirl the tails of your animal dress
with laughter in sun-wind

dance to the earth and its bones beneath
your arms open raised to the sky

rhythm feet turning the centre of you
letting arms flow to the voice of your body

turning the more deeply to its music
gentle strong dancer, astonish me again