your hands

1/
when you would rub your hands together
as if they were cold
the strange tension and then release
and the way your face would screw up
and then relax into one of your glorious smiles
your nails curved over the ends of spatulate finger tips
a cigarette held loosely between two fingers
palm up, hand bent at the wrist, while you talked
strong hands, capable, practical, tender

2/

when you rolled a cigarette
when you used both hands
to gather your dark heavy hair
and lift and twist it up
and away from your face
fingers stained with paint
long, slender, graceful, the colour of weak coffee

3/

when your hands gather tomatoes
or test the weight of cucumbers
I see the knuckles enlarged with age
the scar on the side of your thumb
the clean, neat nails

these hands would have held me once
when I was a baby, a tiny child
they would have lifted me and felt my weight

and when we are gathering lemons
and you are passing them to me
you pass all the times you held my hand
stroked my hair, and tucked me in close beside you

your hands have been open ever since
waiting for mine to close over them

Writing prompt from Sarah Selecky:
“write a list of times you remember staring at someone’s hands”.
https://www.storyisastateofmind.com/

These are my memories of three special people.

©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

red and green

on my doorstep
a brown cardboard box
tied with string

standing in my kitchen
I cut the string
and open the box slowly
lifting away the paper inside

and all is red and green
and smooth and curved and fresh and ripe
skin and leaves
one long green crunch of cucumber
and balls of plump red juiciness

I lift one round red globe
and the sunlight bounces off the surface
five green fingers reach out from the stem
gestures of greeting in the quiet room
I hold it close and there’s the distinctive tang of tomato
the scent of a summer garden

and so much more
I see the hands that lifted each rosy globe
felt the weight and pressed thoughtfully on the skin
the hands that snapped the ripe fruit from the vine
the hands that nestled each one into this box
arranging and rearranging for the perfect fit
I see the hands tying the string
and checking all is secure
hands that reached for me
and held me as gently
as these tender fruits

all acceptance
and generosity
the hands of a gardener
growing love

©clairegriffin2017

green

img_5321

your footsteps play
on the skin of the land
as on a drum
I feel the ground vibrate

you are coming

you will lie beneath me
and I will drop
sun-ripened fruits
into your mouth

you will stand still in my arms
as the wind blows around us
I move so slowly
this is how we dance

you will hear me singing to you
while you sleep
I speak so quietly
you can only hear me in your dreams

I am strong and grounded
the one you seek
my roots run deep
my tribe is many

you are a bright brief burst of life
and I am older than your generations
you are constantly astounded
my hair is green
and yet you love me

©clairegriffin2017

broken glass

 

today was a stormy day of the heart
needing to move, to put distance
between my heart, my soul
and my daily life

standing on the rocky edge
looking out to sea
watching the waves coming
inexorably into shore

rock pools beckoned and I walked further out
looking through still water with a surface like glass
starfish and sea lettuce, neptune’s necklace and limpets
patiently waiting for the incoming tide

but the calm waters didn’t match
the turmoil I felt
the waves of emotions
needed something stronger

when sudden unexpected rain
struck intensely from behind
choosing not to run, I was drenched in seconds
standing still, with one hand holding back my hair

I stood and watched
as heavy rain broke the surface
all life beneath now an impressionist’s dream
then, just as quickly, rain stops and ripples spread and settle

when the liquid glass shattered
I drank the fragments
they cut through anger to release the tension
touching the wet rocks, I am centred in this turbulent landscape

I am the rain, the rocks, the fragile sea-life
I am the squally wind
heart-settled, soul-free

I watch the sea birds
ride the updrafts
and wish I had wings

©Claire Griffin 2016

Reading Tyler’s poem “Drop by drop” and discovering the lines
“All my worries fall away, I am a storm cloud”.
They seemed to express perfectly how I was feeling today.
Entering the landscape always helps me recover equilibrium,
but it took becoming part of the storm for it to work today.
The land reflected my feelings back to me,
and then I was able to release them.
Thanks for the inspiration Tyler 🙂
https://tylerpedersen02.wordpress.com/2015/12/13/drop-by-drop/

 

beach memories

I recognise the mindful way
each foot is placed
stepping over
walking around
careful as she walks
the sandhill path to the beach

I feel the rhythm
the slow quiet pressure and release
as each foot falls and lifts

hands brush through
grasses that grow tall
along the edge of the path
marram grass and lupin
toetoe* and spinifex
each stroke a caress
a hand in a lover’s hair

I reach forward into her touch
and bend away
eager and shy
trusting

the rhythm changes
feet run over sand
land heavily after jumping
over driftwood and seaweed flotsam
until the sea is reached

then all weight is lifted
as she floats and drifts
and still, there is a sense of her
as waves bring her back in
to scuff feet against the sand
and I wash over, tasting her skin

when she leaves
my salt kisses
drying in her hair
wind and sea
smooth her footsteps from the beach

and I hold the shape of her
the weight of her
memory embedded
encoded in roots
lying deep below the surface
waiting

© Claire Griffin 2016

*toetoe = tussock grass (pronounce as “toi toi”)