No. 10 - 11


Jane Williams  


my daughters once touched me for love or luck or merely to survive tiny fingers like thirsty roots forced to surface tore at my clothes hair skin my optimistic frame of bone all this to get to the heart of me revealing again and again what it is to choose life I named every existing thing between us we invented the rest when they come to me now these grown women felled and fallen in ways I cannot mend or pretend away I see their eyes have become stars whole galaxies depend on for light and warmth even hope yes that too perhaps that most of all still the question remains how is it they have come to think of me as wise when truly I am unable to tell them where we come from  

Fathers of my childhood

most carried a little despot
behind red of their eyes
in their untempered cries
for respect and peace 
on their own terms 
in their own homes 
we were thorns 
in the delicate grooves
of their lion paws
one I remember as older 
smaller than the rest 
a soldier turned pig farmer
who took a nurse for a wife
had four daughters 
a cat called puss
sculled mugs of sweet tea 
the occasional 
celebratory shandy 
when other fathers 
were not to be disturbed 
he turned to The Flinstones
preferring cartooned pre 
history to the flash backs 
of the six o’clock news 
each time this one laughed 
I felt something implode 
instinctively took cover 
as if from unfriendly 
friendly fire

The heart’s departure points 

I plan immunisation against the real thing, gentle exercise to ward off the deep vein thrombosis and that other kind of loneliness that comes from not knowing my own heart yet still expecting miracles from it. When the sky bleeds light I face east and practise salutations to the sun, restoration of faith in general - but meditations on breathing leave me breathless; I know how to gasp, sigh, pant but never learnt how to breathe. Was this where it all went wrong? Me thinking I could go on holding the same breath - forever in anticipation but never fully arriving? Always asking - Are you the one? Are you? In sleep I become obsessive repeating the itinerant’s rituals of undressing and dressing of packing and unpacking. I go through the motions of leaving as though it is an answer, as though the question of pain could be anything more than rhetorical. As though your absence is not the moon hung without heart in the wrong part of the sky. A shadow bereft of sun. Remember how we came to each other empty handed except for my two hammer tool box, your car full of bird seed. As if anomalies could be reasons. How we searched each others’ eyes for second chances. For the face to replace the one of our dreams we woke from forever wounded, forever changed. We compared scars and found them to be kindred. We doctored each other believing a kindness was close enough to a cure. We fashioned terms of endearment until they sounded original. We tried until everything stopped working the way we imagined. Now it’s the little things that get under the skin - tattoo from the inside, postpone indefinitely the mixed blessing of forgetting. The way you made the word bijingo sound exotic. My tired bushwalking feet in your hands. The way hearing you laugh felt like a reward. All the times we said hello. Does it all come down to timing? What if we’d known each other before the world found its curve, before the invention of everything. Before the dumbing down of dreamspeak into everyday banter playful at first then bored then before we knew who started it a war of words, silence the only prize or was it irony? What if we’d known each other before Roget’s Thesaurus and the endless interpretations of desire. What if we’d known each other when knowing each other took a life time of listening to a handful of words, each one newly formed not yet spoken, worth its weight. What then? The first time I lost you was careless. The second time my sight was restored but too late. The urge to flee is a caged winged thing. I google the world and here it is (look but don’t touch). Antarctica promises oblivion and Ireland whispers more to life but I am already a survivor. I know how to get by on the smell of a wine cork, curry a used by date, call heartache indigestion. I make all the right excited moves and noises, mime grandiose entrances and exits, tell myself new loves wait on the virtual horizon and that even painting by numbers can be art. I know grief can tempt me barefoot through snake infested country or needlepoint alleys - anywhere the odds are high and the gods are out of town. But to deny it is to settle for less so I find myself describing the contours of a dislocated brain the dream life of a transplanted heart. The body knows how to grow scars, they are proof of its intent to survive. When I put a finger to the newest of these, the ensuing silence picks up the pulse of every living thing. 




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