MOTHER AND CHILD
With a soft voice my mother calls my name,
closes the door and tells me to stay calm.
The spaniel rolls his eyes
and whimpers under the table
where I join him, close to tears,
waiting for the storm to pass.
I shut my eyes and pray that it will pass,
while mother whispers names
of saints. I try to hide my tears
and count the seconds, fighting to be calm,
worrying the scored leg of the table
with my nails, lifting my eyes
to meet my mother’s eyes,
seeing the rain-dark clouds pass
by the kitchen window. The rustic table
a refuge from the din: the whispered names,
my mother’s arms a comfort and a calm.
She kisses me and dries my tears.
Five thousand miles away false tears
will fall in torrents from the eyes
of gods who sit, serene and calm
for months, waiting for the day to come to pass
when annihilation is embodied in a name
chosen from a list. No table
can shelter them the way my table
does; they have nothing but their tears,
and prayers muttered to sainted names,
entreating God to keep them safe. Eyes
fixed on the TV, willing it to pass,
vainly hoping that all stays calm:
‘weather reports have been wrong in the past, be calm’.
The cyclone moves inland, while families sit at tables,
winds drop, some think that it might pass,
but the land mass pricks the storm, tears
a hole in its fabric; they can’t believe their eyes,
the sea is falling from the sky, and names
of loved ones pass from lips in streams of tears.
A dreadful calm steals over mother at the table:
she shuts her eyes, murmurs her child’s name.
IN THE PIT
So many excuses could be given
for my almost fatal carelessness:
the innocence and ignorance of youth,
the negligence of adults, the hidden
dangers of the farmyard. I thought my life
was over. After a short struggle, I realised
that I was only hastening my end, but still
my arms and legs reached out to find
a base that wasn’t there. How deep the shit
was, I’ll never know. But I remember how time
slowed yet didn’t stop, allowed me to relive
my life, see the faces of the ones I loved,
feel a child’s sorrow for the ending of a story
that had only just begun. I called and called
but no one heard; I wondered was I silent,
struck dumb as the broken implements in my field
of vision: the rusted harrow and the buckled
wheel, the busted trailer sunk in mud.
Just as I began to drown in that foul sea
the farmer threw a rope, instructed me
to tie it round myself. He pulled me like
a young weed from concrete, rootless –
dying all this time since I was saved.
FIRE & FLOOD
I read about the fires across the Amazon and thought of the rain we’d had this summer. After a long time even Noah saw the sun but we weren’t yet emerging through the grey. Although the rain was finally dying off in places, it still fell in squalls. I wondered about the creatures abroad in it, those pairs that Noah saved – the animals undone, confined and restless in their stalls – would they have rather taken their chances in the flood? Appalled perhaps – the plain a distant memory, they bawled their pain across the waters that unfolded to the end of vision’s range. I wondered how much rain it would take to quench those forest fires. I thought of the dying animals and how after the raven’s loss, a dove was sent to try to find dry land. It must have seemed a hopeless enterprise, a vain attempt, until returning at the last with olive leaf that symbolic bird spoke in the only way it could, a message that told of God’s assurances to spare the few who chose the path of just belief. We never pause to think about the fate of all the rest; we stick with the story of those who built a boat when others would despair, a mad-cap notion to preserve each species, a haven for all creatures from God’s wrath, but not all creatures – one forlorn conscriptee from each sex, incarcerated on a stinking boat until, despairing, halfway mad, rejoicing, they found Ararat.