Everything shut will open again:
the intimate green we don’t notice
till you show us in this childhood place
how each leaf responds to the least
reading of fingertips, folding down,
as if we only briefly crossed its mind,
and were then forgotten
in its restoration:
mimosa pudica, essence of discretion,
fragility of interface. Our touch
passes like cliff-shadow, leaving no trace.
Everything is a game, you say,
as the boy keeps leaping, will leap forever
into the spray beside the steep cascade,
imprint also effaced as he runs
back into daylight, evaporation.
What am I saying, thirty years!
It’s forty, or fifty already. The ground
full of holes that are never sated, the road
an eternal ford with no sign of the other
side. Everything shut will open.
Evaporative Water Cooler
God knows where he rustled it up from.
There was always the back of a truck, friend of a friend,
or some prospect he’d warmed up who came good,
some favour he’d called in, silver-tongue, touch of the blarney
but there it was, dripping, glittery, our high-ceilinged
weatherboard lounge-room set fluttering, all ears
for its rumbling, gravel-throated hum, and him
filling the back of the thing with a hose, great guzzler
that it was, lifting the fly-strips like something redemptive,
sending the ravaged pages of newsprint she hated flying
till we kids pounced barefoot on them, tamping
them down, rolling the toppled stubbies, and him
flaking out in the fat armchair, a snore to rival the growl
of the new secondhand cooler, us clustered at his feet,
and her resolute in the kitchen, the household settling
into temporary respite, cool spell, artificial and moveable
as temper sweltering that December, quelling the angst,
the discord of coming down in the world, a bought peace, barely
paid-for truce, running up bills he could always delay
or talk his way out of, still better than meltdown.
The stoup at the door is empty.
Our Lady of Knock reduced to a pun.
Somebody else’s house I call home
on borrowed time. I know the routine.
An empty stoup, God-shaped.
I could fill it myself from the tap:
base water, Tess baptising Sorrow.
Or savour the void it cradles, knowing
though hands may be trained to mere pattern,
no power holds, no priest steers me,
nor ever will step inside again to belabour,
upbraid a mother’s unsainted rooms,
the way she hid the hated objects
in a father’s absence. Nor to badger
a frightened child with limbo.
The stoup‘s too small for grown fingers.
They itch like stitches, yet find it wanting.
Not even dried relic of sponge, no hyssop
to soothe Christ’s lip, to slow the loss, the attrition.
Only this cracked plastic shell, with nothing to offer.
Though it lodge in the brain and beg for
response, I repeat: it is empty – no drop will grace
my ingressions, transgressions, nor register
deference as if I clocked on. My left hand knows
what my right hand is doing.