Help!

 

img_0372

Help!

The world turns full circle
and my mother is on the phone.
It’s four AM. “Help me!” she cries,
from the far side of the Atlantic.

Her ship is sinking fast and she’s
nine sheets to the wind.
“I’ll stick my head in the oven,”
she says, “and turn on the gas.”

What can I say? What can I do?
She makes so many threats.
She’s crying “Wolf!” and her words
now bounce off this duck’s back.

Yet still I wake at night to hear
her whispered words, and they still
chill with their razor’s edge of
“Help me! Help! Please help!”’

Silence

img_0146

Silence

Our conversation today:
a sun baked Roman aqueduct
dried up, no water.

In the bathroom,
brown sacking hangs
ragged on leaking pipes.

Our words are lifeless kites,
earthbound,
too heavy to rise.

Each sentence fills
with wasted movements
of lips, tongue, jaws and teeth

Enormous
barbed wire barriers
have grown between us.

Words and thoughts
hang like washing
pegged out on a windless day.

Dead soldiers
gone over the top,
their uniforms flapping
on unbroken wire.

Losing It

IMG0075_1

Losing It

When you lose it,
whatever it is,
your fingers pick at seams,
hankies, skirts, shirts, jeans,
or strip a label from a bottle,
or crumble bread, or …

There are so many things
you can do,
personal things.

On the table:
a vacant cereal bowl,
a silver teaspoon in a saucer,
an empty teacup
returning your round
moon-face stare.

Comment: I would like to thank everyone who joined in this discussion today (blog, e-mail, and Facebook). The poem transcribed above is the final version, subject to later consideration of course. Earlier versions, with selected comments, are set out below.

1

Losing It

When you lose it
whatever it is
your fingers pick at seams
hankies skirts shirts jeans
or strip a label from a bottle
or crumble bread or

there are so many things
you can do
personal things

on the table
a vacant cereal bowl
a silver teaspoon in a saucer
an empty teacup
returning your round moon stare

your hands
twist and pull
your nails
click together

blunt needles knit
then unpick stitches
trying to unravel
then to repair
this ball of empty air

 Comment: This is a Golden Oldie. It dates from the final illness and passing of my mother, thirty years ago next month. When I wrote it, I wasn’t punctuating my poetry. Nowadays, I prefer punctuation as it guides the reader in terms of the rhythm and flow of words. Leaving it exactly as I wrote it means you, as reader, have to wrestle with the meaning, the order, the pauses, the rhythm. My guess is that this over-complicates the poem. However, it was a difficult time, so the poetry I wrote at that time was also difficult. I will be interested in any comments on the following question: to punctuate or not to punctuate?

Comment from Judy: An out there idea: what if  for Losing it – you ended poem with first stanza?
Reply from Roger: What if, indeed? Then it would need a tweak or two, something like this: the poem changes, but does it gain or lose?

2

Losing It

blunt needles knit
then unpick stitches
trying to unravel
then to repair
this ball of empty air

your hands
twist and pull
your nails
click together

your fingers
pick at seams
hankies skirts shirts jeans
or strip a label from a bottle
or crumble bread or

there are so many things
you can do
personal things

on the table before you
a vacant cereal bowl
a silver teaspoon in a sauce

an empty teacup
returning
your round moon stare

Comment from Jan: Play it again, this time with punctuation. This time I have returned to Judy’s original suggestion, and just placed the last stanza first. Then I have punctuated the poem. Revision and re-creation time: this is fun! I punctuated the above version, then cut it down to the first poem published at the start of this article. Tank you all for the help.

Butterfly

img_0189

Butterfly

A butterfly
brushes against
my mother’s rose bush.

Pale and delicate,
much too frail to survive,
in this April wind,
he tears his wing
on a thorn.

The white of its shredding:
a sudden shriek,
blanched blood
drifting like snow.

“Why did you write those words?”
My mother’s voice
sounds in my head.
“Am I the butterfly?
Are you the echo of my cry?”

From this distance in time,
my mind bounces back and forth,
from image to image:
a stone skipped across
tranquil water.

Pictures pound through my head:
waves on the shoreline
where I scattered her ashes,
and every grain of sand
a grinding of small bones.

Mice

img_0177-2

Mice

“When the cat’s away, the mice …”
they said, with a knowing wink, but
there was no play and you left me
with an emptiness I couldn’t fill.

It was our daughter’s fourth birthday.
She and I baked a cake, though to tell
the truth, I did little more than watch
and all encouragement from the side
-lines. So competent, she was, I called
her ‘Mother Two’ when she told me to
do all the things she wanted me to do.

Her cake turned out fine. She used
a whole packet of icing sugar, layered
so thick there was more icing than cake.
It was just a bit liquid too, and we could
not be bothered to wait until it cooled.

Drinking hot tea, munching  a slice of
her birthday cake, I sang a line or two
of Happy Birthday and then fell silent
as I wondered what you would be doing.
Later, we fed tiny cake crumbs to the dogs
who sat there, begging, not wanting their
own food, drooling, missing you, just like us,
and all of us waiting for you to come home.

Jacuzzi

IMG_0236

Jacuzzi

Warm and safe,
womb waters whirling,
drifting me through time,
eyes closed, and space.

Amniotic, this liquid,
rocking me to the throb
of my mother’s heart.
I close my eyes.

The walls around me
open out to reveal
the sun by day,
the stars by night.

The full moon:
a golden circle
beaming down.

My mother’s face
hangs in space
above me

and me:
re-born.

Raw Poem:

I wrote this lying in the jacuzzi about an hour ago. It’s not just a raw poem, it’s a very raw poem. There’s something comforting about it, though, and I like the in and out of reality moments. It’s good to remember my mother, too, especially in the image of the full moon in all its plenitude and beauty.

“and me: re-born” — the small circle in the centre of the Mexican pottery mask is the symbol of the seed of the new born babe. The mask goes full circle, from birth, to beauty, to old age, and death … a full moon cycle.