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.
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.
I take out the bin for pocket-money. It’s only 10p, she tells me it’s all she can afford. We both hold onto the washing machine for its spin-cycle rock’n’roll. Unhung pictures have collected weeks’ worth of dust, but we vacuum – now and then – and she scrubs. She’s taught herself to program thermostats, heating, even TV, but parental locks are beyond her. So my brother chats inappropriately with Tibetan monks and louche gamesters in France late into the night. She leaves the room quickly when the Skype jingle heralds another call from our dad. She tells us she is learning so much new stuff, foists recipes upon us too exotic for our tastes. Luckily, every two weeks we relax for a couple of days with Dad’s frozen pizzas or chicken nuggets galore.
Doorbell dings. ‘We’ve noticed your patio could do with some cleaning – we kill weeds, pressure wash, spray and all.’ I don’t know why she shakes her head smiling feebly, nor why she leans quite so closely on the door she slams behind them.
In an attempt to escape the chill in my house and save on heating bills, I took my writing to a café recently, which finally gave rise to some lighter verse. Over at dVerse Poets Pub, we are focusing on ekphrasis, combining art and poetry, allowing them to complement and lift each other. So, instead of a photo of a current Viennese coffee house, I will show you a picture by an anonymous painter showing the first coffee house in Vienna, The Blue Bottle, and acknowledging the Turkish legacy of the brew.
There is a constant buzz in the air and I can’t help but catch random nouns, fleeting storm of verbs, wondering about the beginning or end of a story. Here once men (and only men, save for serving-wenches) met for important discussions, philosophy and politics, courtly tricks well played. Nowadays it’s families, business meetings and angsty writers. Spoons clink, raucous slurps, children roll playfully under the table. The names of the beverages seem to change daily, as do the baristas: soy-free double cortado, skinny flat Americano… I need a dictionary. Foam and coffee stained, my cup stands a forlorn witness to my frantic scribbling.
Warm my hands on mug
Waiting for inspiration:
Caffeine soaring lark.
I’m done with swashbuckling pirates or panthers, that faint gleam of danger to hasten the pulse and pinprick the senses. Where winds sweep dry, offer me water, not desert fire. Where waters swirl deep, offer me bridges, not islands.
Give me slow, earthy kindness: spilt fruit of joint labours. I open the window and wait for new breeze.
A plant with deep roots
that can catch my tumbleweed
rest sweet for a while.
I’m linking this to Haibun Monday prompt at dVerse Poets Pub. If you want a very good explanation of what a haibun is and does, please visit the Pub and check out all the great examples of prose-poems linked in there.
It’s the last Haibun Monday of the year and we have all week to link to dVerse Poets’ prompt of a good night, a preparation for this time of year when it’s dark outside but hopefully we find some comfort, warmth and light inside. It’s hard to stay cheerful when I know so many are bombed out of their homes and find no comfort at all, but I cannot miss the last prompt of the year, especially since our host is the lovely Toni, whose mother is currently very, very ill. So here is my memory of a Swiss celebration, the descent of the cows to the valley in autumn.
This being Switzerland, of course, we stop at midnight on the dot, but before that it’s all song and games. With apple on dapple cows, boys and girls equally handsome and flag-bearing. In the tent they throw up tables, cheerful chatter, out pops another bench. Communal prancing, booted feet, fun triumphs over grace. Stocky white sausages smoke on the grill, and the wine is hot and spicy, the apple juice well mulled. Children toddle freely to try out the Alpenhorn and the bovine flower crowns. Dogs wait under tables, so well-behaved we nearly forget they are there, until we step on their tails.
It’s Haibun time over at dVerse Poets Pub – a form of prose poem followed by a haiku or other form of micropoetry. This time we have a number of quotes to inspire us. I chose Paulo Coelho’s:
At every moment of our lives, we all have one foot in a fairy tale and the other in the abyss.
They gurgle fullness of belly and gaze. Like well-trained lapdogs, they sit and never grumble. The occasional whine may escape their lips, but they never bare their teeth, nor lunge forward at the hand that feeds them. They are content with their flat screens and smartphones, their pinging tablets, their remote-controlled houses, their cars racing from 0-60 faster than you can wish yourself away an island. Holidays twice a year in a remote, yet not isolated enough to lack servants or Wifi connection. All these conspire to give you the illusion of happiness, of being in control.
Then there are days when your corporate patter dribbles down on your neatly ironed shirt. When you have to let your best friend go, because of performance issues. When you realise you have no friends. When your children no longer care or know you are around. When your wife has a golf coach or tennis coach or swimming instructor with more muscles than you have hair. When you are never home to enjoy your landscaped gardens and your jacuzzi tub.
As snow melts on roots,
mud clings to last autumn’s leaves:
no room for fresh buds.
I eat quince to keep me sober. Its bitter, astringent taste wakes me to a world where sweetness is not the aftertaste, where juiciness cannot be taken for granted. It is the fruit for grown-ups.
Yet when you roast it, what a transformation! It melts in honeyed dew on your tongue. Do I likewise melt and linger when the fires burn me up? Or do I blend with molten iron to form a steely backbone?
Memory of golden fruit
Flower in the frost
This poem, written for Haibun Monday at dVerse Poets Pub, is dedicated to my favourite fruit, the hard-to-find and even harder-to-describe quince, and is dedicated to the memory of my favourite musician, David Bowie, who was likewise unique and hard to describe.
It’s Haibun Monday at dVerse Poets’ Pub and this time Mary is asking us to use an image prompt. I’ve rewritten an earlier piece of flash fiction as a haibun (so I’m not sure it fits the description) – and I’m afraid it may be a little longer than ideal.
We reach the park. It doesn’t take long for Mum to get bored: ‘Enough of swings! I’m tired. Run off, do something!’
It’s cold and windy. The monkey-bars are icy, there are too many children on the merry-go-round. I push the boat forlornly, just a little further out, to amuse my baby brother. Our remote has long since run out of batteries and nobody remembers to replace them. The boat shudders lop-sidedly and capsizes.
My brother’s lower lip starts quivering. I show Mum the wet bundle that was once our boat, hoping her longer arms will be able to retrieve it with the stick. But her eyes are elsewhere.
‘Go run around the pool!’ she says, ‘You’ll soon warm up!’
Mum rolls her eyes. ‘First of all, it’s “I don’t want”, not “don’t wanna”. Secondly, tell me clearly what don’t you want? Can’t help you if you don’t talk to me properly! When will you learn to express your thoughts instead of just crying and whingeing all the time? Waa, waa! Is that all you guys ever do?’
She’s off again. No one can say Mum is stuck for words. Press a button, and she goes on forever. I have my pocket remote – one that works without batteries – and zap off her sound like on telly. Only let a few words slip through, just to make sure she isn’t suddenly saying something important, like lunch or time to go home. But no, it’s the usual stuff… How could she have given birth to such lazy children?… Sports are so good for you – unhealthy, stuck indoors all the time – only interested in Xbox… Nobody will be our friend if we behave like this… A burden on her, what has she done to deserve this…
I’ll have to get it myself. I sit on the stone edge of the pond, lean forward waving the stick like a light sabre. My theory is that if the Force is with me, little rays of it will make waves and bring the boat back to me. It nearly works, but I have to dip my hands into the water quite a bit to grab the sail. My fingers are icy around my catch. I hand it over hurriedly to Jake.
Mum folds her arms and sits, muttering, on the bench. Jake stands stiffly beside her, the boat clutched to his chest and dripping all over his shoes. Face all screwed up and snotty. Refusing to have fun. I shrug and start playing Star Wars. I always play this on my own – no one else, not even Jake, may join in. I’m a clone trooper, fighting enemies with my light sabre. I run around with sound effects. Mum hates this game. She says only Jedi knights have light sabres and clone troopers are stupid. But I want to be stupid, I want to look like everyone else. All Mum’s brains, all those college scarves in her sock drawer that we’re not allowed to touch… and she has to go to hospital every month. Feels sick like a slug afterwards.
Besides, Jedi knights are boring, like grown-ups: they talk too much, they’re always right, always winning. Light sabres should belong to everybody. And boats should never be allowed to sink.
Fingers ice over:
Who sees beauty in hoar frost
when hearts need warming?
Haibun Monday For dVerse Poets we are writing a haibun based on a lesser-known painting by Van Gogh. For more information about this poetic form, please visit dVerse Poets Pub, where you will meet many talented poets of all ages, experience and taste. As for the title of the poem: ‘postliminary’ is the opposite of ‘preliminary’ – something that occurs after the fact.
Post-holidays, post-weekend, the party’s over, the curtains drawn.
Sweep floors, fold laundry, sigh over undone homework and chores. The clatter clutter glitter mutter of video games on a loop and on sufferance. I don’t want to be the mother that forbids. I don’t want to be parent with the unpopular principles, old-fashioned moans, the terror reign of rules.
I dream of a walk in autumnal country fields, swish-detour through the leaves. I dream of a time when you sought my company, when ‘Mama’ was spoken without reproach. Our laughter mingling, our hands meeting, grubby faces to be kissed. Tell me of your hopes, your fears, the mere dull niggle of the everyday. Debate a book, a film or life, open up your eyes and mind to breathe in all, to question but love. In front, the distant hum of the village, fattened to post-prandial languor. To the right the church tower is but a squiggle, the bell tone playful not grave. Ahead of us a horizon I want limitless and full of sunrays for you.
Like the fields we stretch
away to gold and gray. Look –
how near how far the change!