Saturday, 28 April 2012

Circle of Life Poems

Before I drop


"Nobody's mother can't not never do nothing right" Liz Lochhead

There's a few months yet
The job will be done
Later I'll rest
Today I'll work on

Think of sleep and of vigour
All soon to be gone
Later I'll plan
For now I'll work on

The washing, the worries
All that put upon
Let's not waste the quiet
Go on fool, work on

I'll drop what I carry
One labour part done
Till then I'll be working
Work on girl, work on





History at 40


There's so much I don't remember already
Names, faces, whole unsuitable relationships
And there are places that I know, for sure, I've been
But no matter how I strain I just can't see
The getting there, the what it might have cost

My memory is a poor scrapbook so soon
Some jaded birthday cards, much background music
A lonely old photo of a dog we once kept
But some of the connections are painfully frail
Who chose the dog's name? What did the dog think of us?

And now I think, so late, of tackling history
But it seems an odd choice, all things considered
If I struggle to remember my own little past
What hope is there for all the giant rest
The queens, the battles, the damned industrial revolution?

There is one blue day I see clearly - my friend's Dad
(Staff Sergeant in the British army, Scottish, huge moustache)
Took us to Belsen, to teach us something
Because at 12, we thought we knew it all
And what a joke that was, a trick of the light

It was all emptiness
The photos of the starving, the quiet trees and sky
'There's no birdsong here, do you hear that?'
He was harsh with us and rightly so
We liked to complain about washing dishes, about waiting in the car

The drive back was different, we said nothing
No i-pods to hide behind, hell, walkmans were still new then
We looked out at the huge expanse of land moving
And counted our lucky stars, I think
We were shocked by the hole of history, too scared to breathe





Just like the dinosaurs


Not if but when
We are extinct
How will we be remembered
By those that come after
By those that never knew us?

Will we be icing pictures on party cakes
Like the dinosaurs?
Will we feature in blockbuster movies?
'Oh those crazy humans
Didn't they do anything
But kill and maim and torture all the time?'

Will there be whole academic departments
Of newer cleverer beings
Studying our bones and tracks
And mysterious ways?
'They did what?
They had how many pairs of shoes?'
Will they unearth
Long-forgotten episodes of the 'Love Boat'?
'Ah, they lived on water'
Or discover crushed-up carrier bags and crisp packets
A whole new layer of the earth's crust?
'You see, the convenience era, very significant'
Will they perhaps look at a wristwatch
A pot noodle and a Marilyn Manson CD
And wonder what on earth we got up to
Once we stopped hunting and gathering
And all that old-age stuff?

Whatever they suggest
They will never imagine
Us as we really were
The highs, the lows
The what was hard and what was really
We will be unknown and unknowable
Largely forgotten temporary inhabitants
We are not so special
Look carefully, watch
See us as we disappear






Optimistic afterlife


They go for walks about
When we're not looking
They relive merry times
When we're not there
They're glad to be in truth
All that we're not being
They don't dwell so much
On what is fair

We watch them solemnly
They betray not a thing
We dress them florally
They show no taste
We cry for lost love
And it remains that
They never understand
The words like waste

There in the tall grass
The souls are wandering
They have a playground
If short on slides
It is a quiet place
Not really frightening
For those who settle there
And there abide





Our voices break too


Teenage girls want to sing
But mostly they want to look just right
Be in tune with fashion
Just enough, not too much

Their voices are awkward
They stammer out 'who am I?
The pretty one? The clever one?
The one no-one really likes?'

They wobble and warble
And cautious ears listen
For any answers
That might be coming

'Am I girl now? Or am I…'
They can't even say the word
Are they women already
And finished so soon?





Rosebuds all


Leaves and stalks and twigs and flowers
This is all your business now
Children, worries, finance, ours
You moved on from why to how

Watch you working so intensely
Nature never had such aid
Years of caring helps immensely
You know what needs sun or shade

Do you wonder as you labour
Quite how many springs you'll see?
Are seasons shorter now or longer?
Is anything as sweet as tea?

You weed like there is no tomorrow
Perhaps because there is some doubt
You poison, murder, love and water
Perfect show it's all about

Life cannot be kept in order
Humans cannot be pruned back
But look at that herbaceous border
That at least is still on track

The modern world is quite a puzzle
Tortilla wraps and cash machines
Youth is all - it's quite a muddle
TV shows instead of dreams

Endings gesture from the bushes
Herbicides will be no use
Strokes and cancers and dementias
Age brings with it bitter truths

So turn again to this year's roses
Clip and fuss and feel so proud
Watch the bud so if it closes
You can mourn it fierce and loud





The dog house


Hear yourself shout
God what a horrible sound that is
Bark of a bitter dog
Little pup is unconcerned
Gets on with its own games
Thinks old mutt is crazy
And sometimes prone to
Unreasonably high expectations
Pup wags its tail
Jumps up sniffing
'Play with me', it pants
'I won't be this fresh forever'





The last leaf


You are the last leaf
On that branch of the family tree
The generations fly by
You hang on, only just
A few fibres still catching
Strong ones, determined
Like those last strings
Keeping a baby tooth in place

The wind tries to move you
But you're tough, well-weathered
Storms have blown, rains have poured
You've kept busy, kept going
And you're dry now, almost powder
Wrinkles have been and somehow gone again
Leaving your skin flat, smooth
It's resilient, kind of beautiful

You're awkward, a little baffled
Only just connected to our silly modern world
You look down at the ground
Where the leaves all fall some day
And wonder how it will be
To lie in the mulch for a while
You look back up to what you can still see of the sky
You hang on to the branch, to your life, a little longer

To fade


At 6 years old
You still sing all the time
When you're doodling
When you're scootering

And I wonder when does it stop
The joyous twittering?
When angry playground voices shout
'Shut up stupid'?

Or do we censor ourselves slowly?
'Time to turn it down now'
'Time to go inside' and finally
'Time to face the music'
To fade…


Now it is work to breathe, for sure
And though you don't really want the air
There it is encore

The stage is quiet, almost foreign
Your long gown brushes the boards again
But your voice has flown

Finally, maybe

This is the dream where I ask you all those questions,
Where I see your face again after so much time,
And it doesn’t know me.

This is the touch I thought might never come,
One more chance to hold you,
And I don't even mind if your heart's not in it.

This is the place we all try to imagine,
Last-dance saloon, grabbed set of moments,
And it is hard to be here but here we are all the same.

All poems by Rachel Fox (some time after 1997)

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