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.

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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.

Poem for Glenn and Wendy on the Occasion of their Marriage

by Elaine Edwards

Soon Glenn and Wendy will exchange their vows.
Here in this glade, beneath these leafy boughs,
we are assembled now to celebrate
their union, and pray that fickle fate
will treat them kindly and allow them space
both for themselves and one another.
Let them be true, each to the other
in every circumstance, in every place.

Let our beloved children find ahead
a love that’s singular but widely spread.
May the strong bond that’s formed today
enable them to meet all obstacles and stay
their loving course, together not apart.
Let Glenn’s quick wit and strength of mind,
his decency and faithfulness combined
join Wendy’s gentle soul and loving heart.

And in this forest may the verdant trees
be images of love rooted with success
and may their spreading branches show the way
to Glenn and Wendy’s future happiness.

My Grandmothers’ Hands

by Elizabeth Trew

Grandma Helen’s hands were soft and white
spotted brown from African sun,
hands made to crochet long coloured strips
she’d stitch together – striped covers for family beds.
Hands to carry her work-bag of wool
hands to smooth huge feathered hats
hands to shuffle visiting cards
hands that played an upright piano.
She’d sit at the foot of my bed slowly plying her wool
with her crochet hook and sing sharply
her favourite song to me:
Count your blessings!
Count them one-by-one.

Farmor Karen’s hands were strong and red
used to shovelling Nordic snow,
hands to tend rows of raspberry canes
hands to dig and plant
and harvest potatoes
hands to bake bread, light fires
feed the pig and hold a farmer’s crook
to drive sheep up to their summer pasture.
Hands that tied her headscarf tight.
On a visit to the family seter
I placed fresh flowers upon her grave
and ceremonially watered them.
Family say I am like her.

The poem you are

by Elizabeth Trew

When you are in one of my poems
you are the wild child at my knee
the fearless youth, ebullient, strong
the gentle fugitive who ran away to work on farms
and somersault down glaciers
the prodigal who leaves and returns, leaves and returns
the traveler who drifts from place to place
in search of a dream. But you cannot sleep.

You arrive stricken and lonely at my door
on New Year’s day – barefoot,
for you gave your shoes
to a homeless man on the road.
I wish you stillness in the turning days.
I wish you could see in your darkness
your astonishing light,
the poem you are.

Putting it into perspective

by Pam Newham

He wants to know why his parents have appeared
in a documentary on TV.
His mother says: “Because our family is a bit different
to other families.”
He looks puzzled. “But why are we different?”
“Well, why do you think,” she asks.
He pauses. “Oh, I know. It’s because we live on a mountain
and have a tortoise for a pet.”

And his two mothers, one white, one brown
look at each other and laugh.

My Mother’s Journey

by Elizabeth Trew

Her first visit to my father’s country
my mother grips the sides
of my uncle’s boat,
steps out holding my arm,
waves and smiles to the family
at the water’s edge

makes her way
in a swirl of gulls and flaxen children –
high heels in the mud
summer dress fluttering
in the stink of goat and pig and pit-latrine.
A blond horse looms out of a cloud
and the flag of Norway flies
in her honour,
Olaf’s widow from Africa.

In a wooden house of embroidered cloths
and heavy tock of cuckoo clocks
she slowly chews the laid out feast
shut out of language she cannot speak,
begging me to open a window, please.
Her lip trembles at our gifts
sent from Africa –
wooden animals, buckskin shield
and my father’s bar of gold.

 

Wall

by Lise Day

I like these stones
round in my palms
demanding none of my skills
but the placing

Table Mountain sandstone
sun-warm boulders
required only to stay
where they’re put

Low winter sun
on my shoulders
packing a wall
putting down roots

Bright vygie crevices
gecko tanning ledges
rock hopping toddlers
inhabit my wall

Not to keep flowers in
nor peacocks out
just defining my space
is what it’s about.

a taste of banadilla

by Elizabeth Trew

Right now I’ll take you to an orchard
of rose-yellow mangos
 
bunches of lady-finger bananas
clusters of golden pawpaws, tawny litchis
 
we’ll swallow sweetness
supripe, rainwashed
 
stroll among melons
in the pink fall of plums
 
past my mother’s herbs and father’s granadillas –
purple eggs he trained on the vine
 
we’ll find his banana-granadilla hybrid –
the elusive banadilla of my mother’s story
you don’t believe
 
remove its yellow sleeve, taste its black seeds,
its luscious, imagined fruit.

my house

by Lise Day

We lived on the middle floor
many rooms, airy, comfortable
wallpapered with words
curtained with laughter.
Space for three children
two black dogs
a one-eyed cat
and a husband.

Beneath a trapdoor
is the cellar,
dank and dark,
with room for nasty secrets
to clink in corners.
I hate to descend
the steep steps
to this underworld.

Now I live alone in the loft
open skylights let in sun and stars
to allow poems to float up.
Paint flows from my fingers
daubing bright walls,
the doors unlocked, the stairs broad,
I stand on my patchwork rug
and stretch my arms wide.