In honour of World Poetry Day (which was actually yesterday), I thought I would re-publish three of my own poems – poems that are dear to me in very different ways.
The first I wrote for my daughter, the most precious thing in my life. It tries to capture those moments in the wee small hours that all parents of young children are familiar with – moments that are exhausting and frustrating, but sometimes, strangely magical. My daughter is almost nine now, but watching her as she sleeps is still one of my favourite pastimes.
My daughter’s bedside, 3am
You are far away, somewhere mothers cannot follow.
But I am near; so near your breath is my blanket.
It won’t be long until the birds’ busy chatter
will banish solemnity, staccato notes bubbling and then bursting
into a dawn symphony.
Are you dreaming of the tiny sparrow stuck
in the supermarket yesterday
delirious with fear,
its avian heart nearly bursting
from its frantic feathers?
Or of the tenderness of the giant butcher
as he trapped it gently in the frozen foods aisle,
bypassed the check-out and sent it soaring
into a grateful sky?
Listen to your mother’s 3am lullaby:
As I slip back to sleep
your face will be the last thing I see,
your song the last thing I hear,
and your heart the last little thing
I will clutch
then set free.
The second I wrote about our neighbours’ cat, Jasper. I’m a huge cat fan, and I have two of my own. Jasper drives them nuts – but there’s something about him I love. It’s his “I’m here to raise all hell and I don’t give a shit” attitude. I need more of that.
Jasper the Despot Cat
I know a cat named Jasper.
He lives next door to me.
He’s huge and grey and fabulous
– but naughty, too. You’ll see.
A furry fiend is Mr J;
No outlaw could outclass him.
He rules the street with iron paw
and bullies all who pass him.
My driveway is his kingdom,
His throne my windowsill.
He reigns with furry privilege
and bends all to his will.
He serenades the milky moon
with wildly whiskered wonder.
His yowel can ignite the stars;
His purr can silence thunder.
His fierce golden eyes gleam wild
with undisguised delight
when he leaps at me from shrubbery
in the inky black of night.
The clawed assassin meets my eye,
then yawns with dark disdain.
He’s nonchalantly scheming
how to frighten me again.
He slowly pads towards my door
and coolly strolls inside.
My own two cats have disappeared.
When Jasper comes, you hide.
He pees in all my pot plants.
He scratches my front door.
He thinks my pillow is his bed
and he dribbles on my floor.
He lies in wait at breakfast time
and covets every spillage.
Deserted cat bowls yield their last
to the King of loot and pillage.
I know a cat named Jasper.
Beware his caterwaul!
A conquering thief, a despot puss:
One Cat To Rule Them All.
The third is about human connection (and disconnection), intimacy and our struggle to achieve it, and the sadness of sabotaging one’s own efforts to be close to another, even when we desperately long for closeness. I wrote it at a difficult time, and it still resonates.
After the Party
As our bodies collide
and we miss each other,
I start thinking of all the times we have touched
but not touched.
I open my mouth to tell you this
then shut it again without saying a word.
Our bodies part and we tuck and fold,
packaging ourselves up again,
gifting ourselves once more to everything
that is not each other.
It is time for your coffee and my tea.
As we go we carry ourselves under our arms,
unopened presents taken home after the party.
Happy World Poetry Day.