untitled – Tuesday 19 December 2017

The sky is pale and grey, not heavy, but flat and low.
The world is shallow, horizontal, with little space to breathe,
except in spaces cleared by flurries of warm wind.

Sparrows visit, fearless, curious thieves,
crumbs disappearing at the speed of flight.
A magpie swoops in, a botanic priest to correct the masses.

The roses are every colour from cream to peach, cerise to ruby,
some freshly opened, some over-blown.
Stopping at the climbing roses,
and drawing a branch close to breathe in the scent,
voices approach, a conversation full of soft “-sh-sh-“
the sounds of the breeze and these dark, blood-red blooms.

***********************************************************

The gates are open, the path reaches on ahead
and down the hill to the city.
Purposeful runners make short work of the distance.

Tourists walk past, looking straight ahead, keeping to the trail,
“you’ll see a lot of them here – this is tattoo country”
but looking down, this forearm is bare, unadorned,
the design resting in imagination,
as does the house of possible ancestors.

The outline sketched in brick, visible across the grass,
sliced in half by the path these people walk on,
oblivious to the souls that made a life here,
the commitments made,
the children born,
the woman who refused to leave
after the death of the man she loved.

***********************************************************

Children cluster on the edge of the hillside,
where the ground falls away through the trees.
They look out over the city,
people they will never meet, lives they will never live.
Names and dates and ages
carved into their homes of stone.
Angels hold the space, but offer little comfort,
wings broken, eyes blind.

***********************************************************

Isabella draws her hand from the water, and stands to leave the pond. The memory of goldfish kisses tingle across the ends of her fingers. She walks past the rose garden, and up and across the brow of the hill, until she reaches the stone door her parents had placed above her small narrow home, the home that was gone now. All she has is the door. From here she steps in and out of the world, watching until sleep calls and she slips through stone into memory, held in the sacred space of love and loss.

She watches the woman. She watches her trace the outline of the cottage with her steps, sees her break a kawakawa branch and place it on the plaque, sees her step back in silence. Sees that the woman feels the disturbance in the soil, feels the loss. And she feels the years collapse around her until they are two women standing on a hillside, two women lost in time.

As the woman turns to leave, Isabella sends a butterfly to brush past her head, and a fat bee to land on the white rose that grows wild nearby. Roses whose work is done, their centres turning brown, dropping their petals to rot untouched into the earth. All is beauty and desolation for the girl who watches, silence for the woman who listens.

*********************************************************

And as this woman turns to leave, she is deep in the silence
these hours without speaking have taken form
and wrapped around her a cloak of pale, thick air
a fog of silence become substance

And as she walks back down the hill to the car
Isabella walks behind her
bees and butterflies in her hair
and on her shoulders
and white rose petals
falling from her hands

©clairegriffin2018

Well, this has taken a long time to resolve!
From first notes made on the day (19 December 2017) until now, this very evening.
I’d tried prose, and being much more literal, then more poetic forms,
until I just stopped looking at it at all a couple of months ago.
Finally (and rather suddenly) tonight, I settled on this.

I’m interested in your impressions – what meanings you take from reading this.
I like the sense of mystery but I wonder if its too obscure. To aide understanding – this is based on notes made during an afternoon at the Wellington Botanic Gardens and the neighbouring Bolton Street Cemetery (see: https://boltoncemetery.org.nz/history/).
Any ideas for a title would be welcomed too 🙂

19 December 2017 – notes for a poem – un-named as yet

The sky is pale and grey, not heavy, but flat and low.
The world is shallow, horizontal, with little space to breathe,
except in spaces cleared by flurries of warm wind.
Sparrows visit, fearless, curious thieves,
crumbs disappearing at the speed of flight.
A magpie swoops in, a botanic priest to correct the masses.
A large golden dog steps forward and they take to the air.
The roses are every colour from white to peach, cerise to ruby,
some freshly opened, some over-blown.
Stopping at the climbing roses,
and drawing a branch close to breathe in the perfume,
a conversation approaches, full of soft “-sh-sh-“ sounds,
the sound of the breeze and these dark, blood-red blooms.

This is the beginning of a longer piece based on notes taken on 19 December 2017. Its taken me a while to feel that I’m beginning to understand how this wants to be written. But this feels right, and I’ll persevere with the rest…its not always an easy process.

©clairegriffin2018

footprints

(and in the meantime – imagine a photograph of bird footprints…I’m working on it)

I feel thoughts circling
words waiting to be touched
the birds waiting to land
who have always been with me
just out of sight
only approaching from the side
when I’m looking ahead
or looking back
or when I’m still
eyes closed, mind open, listening
then they come

black birds of the imagination
bones bleached white in memory
feathers full of dreams
songs and claws and tails and wings

they strut and hop across the page
leaving spiky footprints, unbound symbols
runes of divine connection

or gently, they lower one wing
to deceive, or to start over
brushing the page clean

sometimes, they are so sure of their song
they stab with their beak
straight through, and pin it to the page

all I can ever do
is trace a line from the edge of one footprint to the next
and trust in the story
they want told

©clairegriffin2017

the scent of silver

a band of pale grey wraps around my wrist
a band that moves and glows with life
shimmering, twisting, sliding down
against the bones of my hand

when turned between fingers and thumb
the metal warms, the light brightens
and I shift sideways
and all is light and warm
and time is younger
and skin is softer

the band of silver sings
and I am filled with the scent
of winter frost on southern thyme
and summer-dry grass beside the lake
and your hair freshly washed
and raspberries crushed between your fingers

 

daily prompt – describe the scent of silver – from Sarah Selecky https://www.storyisastateofmind.com/

I love these prompts, although I’m never organised enough
to work on them daily as is intended.
They trigger all sorts of associations and memories and ideas
that are unexpected, and usually welcome.

©clairegriffin2017

a wooden box in the winter sun

a small wooden box sits beside me on the table
crafted from three types of wood – plum, matai and kauri
glowing red and golden brown in the winter sun

the top fits snugly
and needs firm but gentle pressure
if I am to lift the lid

I almost never do

I cradle it in one hand, lay the other across the top
eyes closed, body memory recalling texture and movement
remembering what it was like to touch one small live warm soul

its been two years now

at first, I immersed myself in your image, walked past photos of you every day
until slowly, I moved beyond the raw pain, the sadness
I no longer reached out as if my touch could wake you

but a week ago I stopped, felt the tightness preceding tears
felt compelled to touch the frame
that has held its four wooden arms around you

and I thought – this is the time
this is the time to write of you, to write to you
my little heart, my elegant soul, my brave boy

long-legged, big-eared, golden-nosed
one wide band of black glossy hair from head to tail
proud-chested, regal, handsome tabby face

in your younger days you would go in to battle
with any who dared cross your boundaries
until the end, when you were content to watch from the window

you were nervous of people you didn’t know
it took you years to stay in the same room with strangers
until the end, when any lap was a warm haven

you loved to lie full length in the sun
you loved sleeping on the bed
until the end, when stretching and jumping was an effort

your bright eyes, pale greeny-gold
would gaze into mine, like two souls connected
until the end, when you were blinded by age

until those last three days
when, over and over again,
you were shaken by the hand of some cruel god

you fell and trembled, lost all control and woke wet and bewildered
and each time, all I could do was cry and hold you
clean you and let you bury your head in my arms

you deserved to go easy

the last thing I could do was help you avoid
the hand that sought to wrench you from my side
was to help you slip away, peaceful

and sitting there, as the vet left the room for potions of sweet sleep
you lifted your head and looked toward the sunlit window
you were seeing something . . .

 

red and golden wood now shelters you
and yesterday I lifted the lid
and touched the air above you with the tip of one finger

I felt a pulse – of my heart, of yours?

and passing your photo, I closed my eyes and kissed the frame
tears rose and fell, and it was slowly that I wiped them away

nineteen years you walked this earth
and now a small wooden box sits on the table
who would think the memories of so many years
could live within its walls

 

for Thomas, and all those who understand the connection between human and animal

©clairegriffin2017

night-quiet

unable to sleep
I sit by the window
looking out into darkness
into my knowledge
of what lies beyond the glass
my eyes see nothing
but the soft black mounds of hills
given shape by the merest light
of moon and star
filtered through cloud

and there is stillness and quiet
the night-quiet when the wind has calmed
and tree ferns hang their fronds down
relaxing their leafy arms into the dark
while the birds sleep in the trees
there are creatures about
snails edging across the driveway
cats patrolling their borderlands
and a moth that stumbles across this page
on its way towards the torchlight
that lights my pen

 

©clairegriffin2017