Marilyn Hammick writes (and reads) while travelling, during still moments at home in England and France, recalling a childhood in New Zealand and years living in Iran. Other times she can be found stitching, walking or on her yoga mat.
In my head I’ve started this many times
– hearing your answerphone voice,
waiting for lights to go green,
in the rhythm of my run.
There are beginnings that get as far
as the notes app on my iPad,
onto pages of my journal, fill the edges
of the insurance renewal notice,
first words that most times stop
before I’ve said anything at all
about what it’s like here, now, without you.
Sometimes the words become sentences
that squabble like magpies over road kill,
or phrases that kick
each another out,
like a cuckoo removes a nesting bird’s eggs
and I give up,
again, and wait, although
I don’t know what I’m waiting for.
What I do know is that you would tell me
I’m thinking too much, to just say what I want to say,
but you’ve never been here, without me,
how would you know the way
from the beginning to nowhere.
Let me explain, saying no isn’t about making
the right shapes with your lips and teeth,
has little to do with laryngeal vibrations
or the sideways movement of head on neck.
That’s anatomy. Saying no is not always
about being negative, the half empty glass,
not wanting to do something, go somewhere,
it’s more than a refusal. That’s possible
but it’s also possible that saying no
is the right thing to do, right for you,
right for whoever asks the question.
No need to explain.
In this house
you’ll walk on new red tiles,
reclaimed red tiles,
broken tiles, tiles waiting
to be lifted, cleaned and reused,
into rooms where one plant
will need watering, another
its leaves wiping and one that
should be thrown away.
Upstairs there are oak floorboards,
oak beams and winter shadows
from the oak tree scrape
the past the windows where
my grandmother’s side table wears
my mother’s handmade lace,
my aunts dining table is adrift
with bills, letters and household files.
In the barn an old drop-leaf table,
stacked with seed trays of basil,
lupin, forget-me-not, marigold,
sits crooked on the concrete floor,
from here I saw this year’s first flash
of goldfinch in the willow tree,
heard crows screeched above the plough
and noted all the sparrow droppings.
In this house we leave our beds to air,
use sun bleached linen for rags,
and you might trip on a dog’s bed
if you walk too close to the stove
where a kettle simmers, almost ready
for one of the many types of tea we keep
with virgin olive oil and porridge oats
in the kitchen’s mouse proof cupboard.
Here is where you can always find
a room to sit in by yourself, dust,
a jigsaw piece that needs finding,
good Bordeaux in a box and lemons,
and depending when you arrive,
there’ll be garden rocket, mint,
chives, figs, strawberries,
barking dogs or silence.
Every January, with a huff
of her eyebrows, she’d reprise
the tedium of their shape,
their pastel nonsense,
she’d ask the same question
Why do you buy them?
and I would give
the same answer.
Their early smudge of scent
sounds like clouds whispering,
the next day there is music
orchestral, full throttle
that is the fragrance before
the diminuendo, when it joins
the vibrations of the singing bowl,
and comes to rest inside you.
There was an uneasy sourness
to the last days,
as he waited, waited
for the signal.
Like house martins on the wing
lingering and looking
for light to sign
from beak to brain
their departure: Africa,
a winter home
tracked there and back.
He imagines his departure,
being able to trace
the shine and smear
he leaves behind.