Speaking in Tongues (Poetry)

I learnt to breathe in Romanian
but I swallowed the secrets of English with my breakfast
sprinkled German consonants on my lunch
and took small French sips of my champagne

And now I cannot unsay
or jump in tangential arcs from one rooftop to the next
with gleeful glance at the abyss
rushing up to stun me at every move.

At times I fear
to speak at all in words
of more than one syllable.

But if, by the side of a poem,
there is a sharp intake of breath, that too
is the echo of my mothertongue.

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The WB Chronicles: Court Battle

Your Honour, we were students, not in the money
for a wedding, anticipated trouble, so my then-honey
and I kept our nuptials secret from our parents,
only informed them a good while after the events.
By then mine had bought a flat for me alone,
or so they thought. Its value soared like a drone,
so we got our next house, and the next. Twenty years later
we’ve had many more donations from the pater…

Mr Judge Sir I protest…
This woman thinks she’s the best,
but she kicked me out less than three years after she found out
that I’d had moments of joy with another. But I called her out,
‘cos it was her lack of uncritical admiration
and the general sense of deprivation
that I could not rule with absolute decree
which drove me to the arms of Gina, Becky, Lee.
She expected me to be apologetic – more like apoplectic
wouldn’t cook or do my laundry while I was texting
the latest mistress I was sexting.
Now I have to pay a massive rent to get a house of similar size –
so what if the kids only spend 6 days here a month – in their eyes
it’s got to be attractive, have room to fit 88 inch TV and Playstation,
while she complains of boiler repairs, lording it in the old location.
That’s the state of our nation.

His salary is high, his pension secure,
why do we have to drown in manure,
when it’s clear as day, eat or pray, doom and gloom,
the boys are mainly spending time in my room?
I feed and clothe them, know all the ins and outs of school…

Your Honour, it’s time to overrule. Food bills are such a drag
why bring up the subject? I don’t mean to brag
but the science the boys get from me
are worth 3 of your books, theatre or history.
Just admit it, you’ll never be as good
as my mother tells me I am. That’s understood.
They’re boys, they need a father to set an example or else
they’ll end up as unhappy as I was
when she made me pick them up from school while she was travelling.
All the while my social life was unravelling,
couldn’t go out for beers more than twice a week.
I’ll teach them to be manly not so weak.
I spend as much on my children as she does, or does she believe
that holidays chasing solar eclipses come through charity relief?
Cinema tickets, theme parks all cost money,
so curb your spending on socks, shoes and school trips, honey!

And if you don’t know, now you know…

With apologies to Lin-Manuel Miranda and his Cabinet Battle in Hamilton, which inspired this.

Haibun: Compassion

She was a wild cat really. She never moved inside the house, but would show up at feeding time and sleep on the veranda. She used to be a pristine ball of white fluff. Now she can no longer clean herself, big patches of dry skin show through. She used to be playful and loving. Now she cannot hear so well, jumps and scratches when you come upon her from behind.

I looked at her ageing, diminished body in disgust. I thought of all the unsavoury germs and told my younger child: ‘No, don’t touch!’ But he ignored me. ‘Poor kitty-kitty!’ he said, bending down to caress her, not at all dismayed by decay. I love the fact that he is a better person than me. I hope he will be as tender with me one day.

When frost crackles bones
how sweet to find a warming
spot in river’s flow

A lovely prompt about compassion based on the poetry of Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828) from the dVerse Poets Pub.

Basenotes

When I bought you the perfume that best described you, you were flattered. Power word to you, not an epithet of shame. I too fell for the gander. Self-belief – so attractive in one gender. I forgot you were no longer sixteen.

Incisive topnotes of tangerine reeled me in then left me stranded in male territory. No heartnote, mere cynical mime of floral romance. I knew it was fraudulent but I soared one brief inkling on spiderly thread and landed with the bitterness of ambrette seeds. Too late to flourish in this sandalwood ground.

The perfume I bought
to celebrate beginnings
soon foresaw our end.

 

Mood Indigo

It’s time once more for that most joyous of occasions – linking up and joining the discussions at the dVerse Poets Pub. This time I have a dreamy love poem inspired by Greek poet Kavafis (known as Cavafy). Don’t they say we should never talk about the moon in poetry, that it’s too commonplace? In celebration of World Poetry Day (which was yesterday), I will break such rules.

Thin sliver all that’s left of the moon
over Alexandria’s port tonight.
We map out each other’s body
on scented sheets in shuttered rooms
your heartbeat in my palm
then slink into the shadows
complicit in their deepening
to journey so far from our generous beginning.

The Seasons

I wrote this a while ago, but it feels oddly appropriate for this time of year, when winter keeps telling us: ‘And another thing…’

If I make it through September, fold my pinnies, cool my forehead,

Don’t wait for gaps to be filled – there is no clemency

Left in any fibre.

If I make it through October, it won’t be for want of trying

To end the throb of left-side temple

Trapped flutter under the skin.

If November doesn’t bring morose companionship on wet flagstones

Where would my certainties drain?

They’d pool like ink on poor quality paper.

And if you can’t wait until December for my waxing sleight of mind

I waste my breath and months

Wondering why you never measure up.

Imagine Lights to the Rescue

Sole guide and friend when I am
lost on country lanes. It’s night
and the loss is sometimes straightforward,
sometimes
the strands of complication get plaited in
colouring warmth in where none was scheduled.
I imagine torches on scenes of small disasters.

Someone we love is always the shape of the missing
the gap unfilled
a careful step on the cracks in the pavement –
it never hurt anyone
to be doubly sure but
who’s to say superstition hasn’t cursed the world?

There can’t be one heart for hatred
and one for love. We only have one…
and it stains easily.