Earth mother, Pilgrim & Intravenous
[ poetry - april 06 ]
My children grow in flowerpots
with crocks of Gaudi mosaic,
volcanic glass. They thrive
on leaves from English autumns
dug around their stems.
Bamboo stakes teach them ritual,
the way to compromise,
guide tendrils along the wall.
They absorb acid rain,
Sahara drought and warfare,
surging radio waves.
The text of frontline reports,
explosions, spatter unfurling leaves.
They twist towards the light,
sap still rising, crack the boundaries
of their terracotta homes,
release scent of green and cordite
from strange blossoms.
If you were with me you’d be talking
and I wouldn’t believe you
but I’m walking alone in this patch of autumn
where ring-necked parakeets fly -
birds that don’t belong here
on the edge of London
with their green, oh-so-exotic greenness,
against the blue.
I can hear you somewhere to my left.
A spirit voice that haunts,
your laughter I can’t shake off.
So I look at my feet
in a way you called dumb insolence,
and I remember the summer you died
how I watched a man painting feet in a sketchbook
outside Rouen Cathedral.
Just feet. The arch of instep, curve of ankle.
Bent over his paper, pools of colour
drying in the breeze...
But I am still your child.
I would like to tell you
about the pilgrim artist
and how I walked across that square
as if it didn’t matter if I were chosen.
And I would like to show you these parakeets -
the ones you never saw so close to home.
Drive a nail into the soft tissue,
the underbelly of elbow
until you hit a vein.
Drip in a smelt of iron filings -
a thick mineral slurry
of beached anchor,
scrapings from a railing,
an iron bar used in last week’s robbery.
They taste the same,
smell the same
I am a ship run aground,
a child scratching at the gate of the playground.
I am a window about to smash.