Eleanor Hooker – Four Poems

RETURNING TO THE LAND OF THE DEAD  
                                for Eileen Mary Warburton Biggs
>

I daub my face and arms with vodka –

an old gardener’s trick, so mosquitos

leave off their blood-fest. Balanced

on a tap of touch and turn, against

the hand-cranked grinding wheel,

the slash-hook whets for the cut.

>

Along the foreshore, an August breeze

plays water music, tender, through

each reed. I swing and find my rhythm,

and as the thicket of brambles unpuzzle,

what was once hidden is now in sight.

I feel the first stings on my eyelids,

>

my lips, my hands. I tug at my shirt –

wasps cling to my breasts, back, belly.

Before the lake closes above me, I see

the nest –a parchment ball sliced

to reveal deep chambers, its darkest

secrets. I swim through the gloom –

>

disturb a pike perfecting toothy menace,

follow launching rails for Vanya

to the end of the pier, where I break

surface a century earlier. As aspens brustle

and grebe calls bump the quiet,

I test my voice and it returns an echo,

>

sounding time’s inevitability.

This vintage summer wears long

linen skirts and high lace collars,

but is not naïve, indifferent or plain.

In the orchard I stand beneath a fruit tree,

breathe a familiar fermenting scent,

>

watch five drunken wasps devour a plum,

tear at its bruised and broken flesh –

in greed lies savagery. One wasp hovers

at eye level, daring me to flinch,

but recognizing a fighter, and my stone-cold

intention should it strike, it returns to its feasting.

>

I feel your eyes on me, Eileen, know you

have seen me before and are not afraid.

Time exists in a loop here, where past

and future are open corridors. You wait

by the door to the rose garden, your face

in shadow under your straw hat, but I see

>

how you smile at my dishevelled ghost –

a scrap of endurance newly emerged

from the lake. There is no warning

I can signal, for already you are lost,

terror already visited, but having found

you here, I will bring something of you back.

.

>

SELF-PORTRAIT IN A HONEYBEE’S EYE

>

In the version my mother tells,

one hung in the still air, hummed

above my crib, its saddlebags

yellow laden. She shooed it,

she says, but not before

it tasted my lip. And that is why,

my mother says, I am chosen

to wheedle with words.

>

I recall its curved fur, and my infant

reflection repeated in its compound

eyes, how it hung in the air, still,

above me. And when it landed,

the secrets that tumbled from its

saddlebag drove into my lip,

and that is why I speak messages

from the otherworld to this.

>

It is why, when in my honeybee coat

you cannot know me, but grasp the sting

deep inside me may eventually kill me.

And as I tremble from flower to disguise,

lost in a copse of words, I hum who I am.

>

>

HIVE

     after Les Murray

>

I am the hive

that broods and yields,

I am the dance

of honey and nectar,

I am an apiary,

a colony in disorder–

spring dwindle

and autumn collapse.

I am the hum

from moulded mud,

a nest on high

ground near rain.

I am storm clouds

that climb the air,

that anvil

and strike,

and strike

the troposphere.

I am storm clouds

that burst

and spill un-goodly

psalms–

of end time,

of bees and keepers.

When neonics

grip bees

in a deadly waltz,

and pledge

to money

our share

of the crop –

gain is already decline,

is declension,

is descent and decay.

I am earth nurse

and centre–

the colony

that swarms and leaves,

a flight of honey and nectar.

>

>

from TRACES

v

particle

>

With neither a window nor door

to admit particles of light,

this darkened room

has a gargoyle

shadowing the cornice,

and when the room tilts,

you fall past one another,

changing places.

You call out to any who

might hear – I am here

I am still here, praying the old prayers.

About the contributor

Eleanor Hooker’s third poetry collection Mending the Light, and two chapbooks are forthcoming. She holds an MPhil (Distinction) in Creative Writing from Trinity College, Dublin. Her poems have been published in Poetry Ireland Review, POETRY magazine, PN Review, Banshee, The Stinging Fly, Agenda and Poetry Review (forthcoming). Eleanor is a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London. She is a helm and Press Officer for Lough Derg RNLI lifeboat. www.eleanorhooker.com

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