I ... entered the poem of life, whose purpose is ... simply to witness the beauties of the world,
to discover the many forms that love can take. (Barabara Blackman in 'Glass After Glass')


These poems are works in progress, and may be subject to revision without notice. Completed versions appear in my books. Nevertheless copyright applies to all texts found here.

31 May 2008

What is to be said? – haiku and things for May 2008

2/5/08

Samhain

Black night with no moon.
The veil thins between the worlds.
What ghosts are about?


9/5/08:

Sunlight on water.
Like the sound of Basho's frog,
its ripples widen.



16/5/08:

A butcher bird lands
next to a clump of deep red leaves.
The sun glints on both.


Native Hibiscus

What is to be said?
The flowers' wide yellow mouths
are strangely silent.

Petals curling back
reveal the deep red centres
like velvet, or blood.


23/5/08:

I wake up crying.
He dries my tears with kisses
one soft on each eye.



30/5/08:

Morning.
Cold rain falling
endlessly.


© Rosemary Nissen-Wade 2008

29 May 2008

Market forces

(Wednesday prompt: a poem about commerce.)

Work
in order
to earn leisure

trade
that leisure
for greater wealth

or
choose otherwise
poverty as freedom

but
money's freedom
so I've heard

no
money is
in fact power

knowledge
is power
get it right

so
trade money
to buy knowledge

then
trade knowledge
for more money

why
does it
seem so circular

why
do I
smell a trap?


22 May 2008

A Boy's Will

(The next title in the Robert Frost Challenge)

A boy's will; how would I know that?
But I look at boys I've known
and think they probably didn't
will what they now have.

A child who ran towards life
ran everywhere, head up
laughing – how did he
become at sixty-four
the self-confessed curmudgeon
squinting into his glass?

The one who went exploring
into the bush at four,
who raced billycarts and scaled fences
and stole things, and always survived ...
what covered his scabby knees
in such conservative grey?

The tot with the owl glasses,
tiny astride a cannon,
but smiling safe and proud
beside his big brother and dad,
who dreamed of making his own pictures
with a camera – not words –
now spends all day writing,
except when his white head rests.

And the two I knew the best,
or thought I did?
That other child of laughter
other daredevil climber
loved stories of heroes with swords.
He spends his life at a desk.

The younger, with the smile
that got him whatever he wanted,
thought of a life on boats
and a perfect woman.
He travels by land and sky;
he travels alone.

These stories are not all sad.
Early desires change.
But a boy's will, what's that?
Peter Pan leaps and is gone.
















Left: Boy 1. Right: Boys 1 and 2.























Boy 3 (Right).















Boy 4.













Boy 5.


Relationship

After hugging, we settle for sleep
back to back, yet wake facing
ready to move together
into our morning embrace.

Today's 'Wednesday Prompt' was to write a family connection poem, emphasising the relationship between two or more family members. I was planning to write a longer poem, but this seemed to say it all.

17 May 2008

Wintersun Festival

A 'Weekend Warrior' prompt from Poetic Asides, on Newspaper Blackout Poems where you block out from a newspaper article all but the words you want to use. Wintersun Festival comes from items in a local paper, the Tweed Sun.

Despite some restrictions
the annual rock'n'roll festival
comes of age. The popular
motorcade parade
and the night car cruises
carry the songstress
back to full throttle.

The arts sector falls
with the current.
Strategy
can be downloaded
when a trio slides in,
captivating. His lap-steel
slide outbursts chill spines.

Trance-like dance effects
over sensual vocals
dish up a mix
of mischief released.
His soaring and thumping
continues to enchant
before moving to reflect.

His wanderings
tell the story people need.
Visit the sound;
last chance to kiss
until next year.
Speaking to the sun,
stay awake.

16 May 2008

Phobia

Wednesday prompt #2 from Poetic Asides.

Water is my element.
There are times in the heat of summer
when if you stop me running and plunging
I might even kill you. And yet –

I swim from the neck down.
I float, I glide, I play, I luxuriate,
but let the water overwhelm my face
and I'm screaming, thrashing, dizzy, wild.

It is without reason.
My fantasies of underwater
are slow, beautiful, dreamy,
strangely tranquil landscapes of desire.

Nothing ever happened in this life
to fill me with such terror. Why?
It's a sudden thing
too fast for control.

When I remember Atlantis,
I was swimming strong
on the crest of the swell.
No more, only that fragment.

Pasture

This is in response to a challenge from Blue Jeans and Lace on MySpace to write something – anything, not necessarily a poem – on a Robert Frost title. So far I think we're all following her lead in which titles to choose, and I've got some catching up to do – so here's my first. (Trusting to fallible memory, I mistook the title. It was supposed to be The Pasture. You can see I'm not so well acquainted with Frost.)

Pasture

The very word sounds lush,
creamy, like the thick milk
from those contented cows
in an ad I heard so often growing up
that it seeped forever into my brain.

But around here the pastures
look skimpy, the few dairy herds
appear either stressed or bored
(and boredom itself, of course,
creates a kind of stress).

I'm not enamoured of cows.
City child, I thought them
lumbering beasts, their horns
threatening, their smell vile.
And they seem to lack personality.

What I love is trees.
These hills and river valleys
left to themselves, teem with trees.
Down around the Richmond, autumnal tones
line the roadways now and dot the fields.

Here on the Tweed it's mostly natives,
tropical natives with their own colours –
bright red and yellow flowers and leaves,
and the rich variety of greens –
flourishing in this earth, their pasture.

9 May 2008

Celebration of the Green Tree-frog

I'm posting this as a gift to my most devoted reader, Jenny Adamthwaite. Not because it's my most brilliant piece, nor even very recent – but just because she likes frogs!

The small frog squats at night
in the track of the sliding door,
hunched below the level of the glass.
Lamplight turns him brown,
his eyes are amber beads.
He is carved stone
watching the moths.
They flutter above him,
little brown leaves
falling against the flywire
and twirling off.

In daylight the frog is green,
sticky and shiny with big webbed feet,
transparent as a leaf.
On top of the water tank
in the gap between pipe and filter,
just where the rain spills in,
he rests and celebrates.
When storms lash and the pipe gushes,
we hear from his tiny throat
a pulsing, continuous drum-beat
heavy and huge and deep.

19/2/96 - 21/8/00

8 May 2008

Wednesday Prompts: The Most Beautiful

Now that the April Poem a Day Challenge is finished, Robert at Poetic Asides has instituted weekly prompts on Wednesdays. Today is the first: a poem that is either about the weather or incorporates the weather into the poem.


The Most Beautiful
For Amanda

The most beautiful autumn,
calm and golden, full of light,
and warm, just warm enough,
the days unfolding
in a long stretch of perfection

and on one of these days,
one just like this one,
I sat with her in her bedroom
so that her cat could hear her voice
and be comforted

and I spoke of men and marriages
and my sons, and she listened,
listening to me and listening
for the cat, lying on her side
on the floor, on a drip

one leg bandaged and
the thin plastic cord going in,
not much soothed
by our touches, our voices,
our nearby smells, because she growled

and tried to lift her head
and now that it's later,
two days later, this friend
who offered herself to listen
phones me in tears

seeking for clarity, what to do
for the old cat who is struggling
to walk and can't, claws
curling under her, whether
to give up and get the injection

and I teach her to test with her breath
as I test with mine, already
knowing the answer which I do get,
and I tell her and she weeps
and thanks me and I leave her

to put down her phone
and gather her cat
and say goodbye to this tenderly loved
child of long life, on this
most beautiful day of autumn.

6 May 2008

Burma Progression

With Burma in the news again with a natural disaster, I'm posting here the free Burma poem I wrote last year, to join with other poets again to help raise awareness for this new challenge.

1.

Precocious reader, I found Kipling
early and loved him long.
Puck was my friend, Kim my hero,
but most of all
I heard the East a-calling
with the lovesick British soldier
dreaming of his Burma girl
in far-off Mandalay.

I saw the paddle steamers
and I heard the temple bells.
They have echoed ever since.

2.

I don't even know, now,
how old I was so long ago
when my cousins from Burma came.
A schoolgirl, maybe nine.

Who fetched them from the plane?
Probably one of the uncles.
It was dark and the moon out
by the time they arrived
down Grandpa's long driveway
with the orchard one side
the creek on the other
its tall stands of pampas grass
ghostly in the dark,
to where we were all gathered.

They were not Burmese,
they were Anglo-Indian like my Mum
(and her siblings too of course)
but they lived in Rangoon
a long time. Why did they leave
and cross the world to tiny Tasmania?
I don't know that either.

They were magic, they shone.
They gave me a Burmese umbrella
red and lacquered, with black spokes
and strange white flowers painted on.

Now they are long scattered
and many gone.
Handsome Uncle Leo
tall, dark and thoughtful.
Aunty Irene, Mum's cousin,
with her scented bosom,
her plump arms, her cornucopia
of hugs and sweets and old wives' tales.

Joan and Anne, those beauties
disappointed in love, grew old.

"Little Leo," the teenage cousin
I swore to marry when I grew up,
fathered six children
and watched them mature
to all kinds of success before he left us.
It was John, his older brother,
who did become my first love
when I was eighteen, he twenty-seven,
my first grown-up passion
surprising us both.
John with his alcohol problem
finally cured, his late, happy marriage
and later widowhood.

And Irene's youngest brother,
Noel, known as Johnny,
who walked out through the jungle
when the Japanese came,
starving on wild berries
and was never quite well again….

It was Uncle Leo who told us
Kipling got it wrong,
in one respect only –
the pagoda looking eastward
was not the old Moulmein,
it was the Schwedagon.
We know it now from the news images,
pointed, and shining gold.

3.

My heroes are freedom-fighters,
champions of their people —
you know the ones.
Gandhi, Mandela, King
and that slender, graceful woman
with a spray of small white flowers
sweetening her hair.

All the years of her exile
to her own house in her own country
I have been sending her
anonymous love and prayers.

I met one who knew her well,
who told me that in private
she's earthy, a person who laughs.
Last night on the television
her face looked sombre, aged.

4.

Rangoon in the news glimpses
looks much like any city –
rectangular buildings,
asphalt, dust,
the golden spire half-hidden
diminished by shops.

The people mass. The people run.
The red-robed monks march slowly
to their deaths. A young woman
sits on the ground and sobs
defiantly, with her head up,
looking the soldiers in the face.
These are not British soldiers.

She is wearing red
as bright as new blood.
Until they silence her
she won't stop yelling
the real news from Burma.

And the dawn comes up
on empty streets where the guns rattled
like thunder.

7/10/07

See also this article:
Natural disaster could become catalyst to blow away injustice


5 May 2008

We Live on a Quiet Street

We live on a quiet street
in a house where strange things happen
like just today this caravan stopped
right across our driveway
and disgorged three women
three colourful women
who strode up and down
both sides of the road.

The plump one with pumping legs
came up to our door
while I ran and hid
from her bright red hair
and forceful voice
leaving my brother to talk to her
and tell her this wasn't
the house she wanted.

The van was rectangular steel
with rounded corners
and windows curtained in white
and it was big and they all
piled out of a white car towing it
and they were dressed normal
and they didn't look
like a tribe of kidnapping gypsies.

But they were
and I knew it was me
they hunted for and I thought
they could smell like wolves
and find me but they didn't yet
they all came and climbed
back into the car towing the van and left
this time.

4 May 2008

The Seeker

For Camille

She longs for a song to fall in love with
and finds the song of paint, the tunes in the colours,
the music she can make in shapes and arrangements,
the intense shades and the grace-notes.

Then she seeks the tones of words,
their patterns and styles, their rhythms and hues,
and the way that suddenly bells explode on the air
and paint it with sound while she sings and listens.

She finds dance and the language of fire,
the chords of the firesticks twirling at night,
the extended arias her arms trace on the dark,
and the rills and riffs of her singing feet.

At last comes the music in men, their thrilling
arpeggios, the dance of their rainbow movements:
light and shade playing across a mouth,
or an eyelid's indication of songs yet unheard.

3-4/5/08

2 May 2008

Wrapping It Up

April Challenge 30: A poem about ending.
It is Samhain, a night of endings
and new beginnings.

How appropriate! Here I am
at the ending of this sad
long struggle for understanding
between we two
who love so deeply and yet
cannot find peace or joy
in each other.

I look back.
When you were a small boy
beautiful and bright,
you patted younger babies
gently on the head, absorbed
in the wonder of them.

The teenager, rebellious,
yet was sweet and thoughtful,
walking with me hand in hand
to the shops and talking.
You don't remember that now.

Even the young man
was full of light, turned out
in his smart suits, laughing
for sheer, exuberant life.

But that was yesterday.

Now you don't like me,
nor I you. Now we are done,
can't even live and let live.

You give me the gift
of new beginnings.
I have shed the influence
of your loud beliefs and opinions
and rediscovered my own.
Wouldn't have done that
so well without you!

I give you release.
May you have the full experience
of this wonderful game called life
as I shall.

© Rosemary Nissen-Wade 2008

1/5/08

1 May 2008

Bed With You

When you lie close to me, my dear,
on long, leisurely mornings,
no wonder I'm reluctant
to leave you alone in the bed.
I'd rather cuddle up,
stroke your thick, soft hair,
murmur in your half-attentive ear.

I love the way you stir a little,
stretch your lazy limbs,
then settle once again.
Your warm breath on my cheek
blows lightly, rhythmically.
I put an arm around you
gently, not to disturb.

You make a muffled noise
between a squeak and a grunt,
but your eyes remain closed;
you take a deeper breath.
Soon I must rise, I think.
Still I linger, smiling,
as you twitch your whiskers and purr.

April Challenge 29 (2008): Write a poem in the second person.
Submitted in 2013 (five years later!) to Poets United's Verse First ~ Body