Menagerie of Wild Beasts
A girl with baby brother wearing wings,
both blonde, she treading water holding him,
but then she throws him off to float alone.
It seems a game, again she throws with force.
He edgewise doggy paddles, departs the pool.
Three gangsters enter each with plunger gun,
an older boy against two younger girls.
Streams arch, shoot half across the silver water
as they chase back and forth around pool’s edge.
This father over splashes teenage daughter,
she splashes back – stays shy of him – then leaves.
That father plays one-man keep-ball-away,
teasing, dunking, kicking: twin sons stand by,
waiting with yearning, when will be their turn?
On Growing Up
Nay, linger here one moment more.
Observe how round thy young face is,
carefully framed in savoured memories.
Like the campfire of eve before,
then left to smoulder out its coals
while we lay close, hard ground at backs
watching the crystal sparks of stars.
Now day has started once again,
the wind makes scent of powdered ash.
Trace of smoke from last night’s stillness,
keeps yesterday lightly engraved
on thy fragile but dear smooth brow.
It’s usual at five to swim alone.
Seventeen kids at pool today, girls mostly,
some boys patrol with handy water pistols.
The din of shouts and shrieks is almost Bedlam.
In shorts, the young PE instructress tosses
her yellow plastic ball poolside to girls
platooned in squealing ranks near the deep end.
She eggs teams on with yeas and boos for cues.
I try to swim my slow sidestroke and meet
a lacework net of arms, side kicks or legs,
and weave my lane between the bobbing heads.
If fifty max would swim, you’ll never move.
A boy wields tubes of yellow Styrofoam,
he whaps his sister – plus a man’s bald head,
bonging two times and shouting: “Stranger! Stranger!” –
his Dad it seems – who forthwith dunks him twice.
I can recall teasing my younger siblings;
my Dad dunked me in huge salt water swallows.
The well-worn way of civilizing children!
Our family then was full of stranger hate.
This beats obstacle courses when you ‘re swatted,
banged on the head, shot in the eye, ploughed down –
I watch my feet – banana skins can slip you up.
Did Bedlam buoy inmates any better?
Love in a House
Let things and house describe the wife I love:
like window over bed installed by you
allowing light and crossing draft in summer,
or sawed-off spout of funnel to fill jam jars.
Exhibit cupboards where you store your treasure
of bones and shells, starfish and thistle blooms,
or crystals, scorpion carcass, razor clams,
driftwood, honeyless comb, seaweed and coral.
And hooks – what man has ever heard of hooks? –
to tidily hitch the cups or garden tools,
and hanging baskets sort garlic from onions.
Crannies and nooks, drawers – each thing has place.
Screens stand next trapeze bars for draping sheets,
to make a separate room from just a landing.
Another bar before wood stove dries clothes.
Those cables where duvets will air all winter.
Stained wood of kitchen counter now in marble,
each room pulsates in purple, red or blue.
Assembled caste offs, hand-me downs or tips,
all flair with kelim rug and chair brocade.
Those tables line veranda, workspace for painters,
mosaic makers, wordsmiths, fabric designers.
The house displays your own reliefs, collages,
pebble pictures – and studio, your sculptures.
These things record our life and happy years.
You painted red our house – our casa rossa.
All beauty, care and warmth survive your absence,
each detail speaks your peace and joy and love.
Your mod-con choice on kitchen wall is ranged,
the counter wood that stained is now in marble,
the fire’s mouth made small and flue lengthened
with copper sheet to better channel smoke.
The bathroom decor’s white – each room displays
a dominant colour, be it purple, red or blue.
Assembled caste-offs, hand-me downs or tips,
all flair with kelim rug and chair brocade
An Elding Couple’s Conversation
“My aged face might make you think how I’m
quite sour, dour, bowered, obsessed with power,
with heart possessed by wishes I’d like to flower,
but I’m quite tame despite my scowl and glower.”
“You know, that’s not at all the least bit funny.”
“Please be my own fun-fancy honey-bunny.”
“I’ll stay my dear, as long as you have money!”
“We’ll be gold easy, but pretty please, stay sunny.”
How Was it to Have Been a Father?
Our home is custom built with special closets
to house the plethora we have of family ghosts.
My son rushed home bursting to show the pot
he’d fashioned that afternoon in class at school.
As Dad, I praised his workmanship and beamed,
but also showed where it could be improved.
My wife announced my son had smashed his pot;
correcting him, she said, had shamed his sense
of paradise perfection without flaw.
Grown now, my son owned up: he’d not been fazed.
At once this made me not so poor a father,
and made that closet one less ghost as full.
The small girl slowly nears her ruddy finger
to the giant crab, but quickly pulls it back –
sapphire eyes and hair a zephyr blond,
nose scarce above the monger's table.
He holds blue lobsters in each hand,
while scarlet twinkles dash between his wrinkles.