(for the Dutch poet Joop Bersee)
No one was as sheltered as me. No one was as
shattered as me. In photographs you’re brighter
than sunshine. I try to live without you but all
I realize is the future of first love. The history of
water and that I’m breaking my heart again. I’ve
seen you pull away from me. I thought that we’d
only know this in the future. Little birds build the
world they want. Agriculture reminds me that everything and nothing
dies a natural death. Even innocence. You’re all
tender when you want to be. When you hate,
I become like the bleak light in a cell wall and
you’re the surgeon’s glove. When I feel I’m losing
you, I’m dazed. I’m swept away at the water’s
edge. You lead me to the commonwealth of the
burning road. The waterfall. The tear in my heart.
I tell myself this time you’ll catch me. This time
you’ll search for me like driftwood at the beach.
You’ll find me there like a fantasy, I tell
myself, if you decide to fall to meet me. You’re
the mystery like snow in fog. We sang ‘walk like an Egyptian’.
Danced to The Bangles. We grew up Christian
but you don’t pray anymore or think that anything
is holy. You’re the material girl now. You’re gone.
You don’t phone. You don’t visit. You’ve gone cold.
You’re set around me like confetti. I came upon
the sun one day but you were no longer around to
see it glow. I listen to Coldplay and pretend you’re
still around. Still pretend you love me. The sea
does not glitter anymore like it used to. You don’t come
home for Christmas. You only talk to our mother.
Prague is your future. I plant tomatoes and basil.
Your nephew plucks snails. Eats green gooseberries.
He didn’t want to talk to you when you telephoned
on Tuesday afternoon driving to boot-camp after work. You remind
me that I need to cheer up. That I chose this life.
And I think that perhaps it’s my fault that we’ve
become strangers over the years. Strangers. Strangers.
owner of a lonely heart weeping amongst the glaciers
(for the Dutch poet Joop Bersee)
Weather has its own body. Water-fat sang a gospel in
plants. Stems explored the muddy-blue. The photographer (my sister)
sang her own gospel with her camera documenting our
holiday. She chose everything. The food. The beach house
which was a different one each year. We used
to drive down to the beach. Walk barefoot on the hot sand.
I would watch my nephew carefully. The music school behind his
wet stone eyes. We’d all get lost in the day. I made a fist in the
wet sand thinking of the hours I would spend writing and writing
in the cool bedroom that I shared with my sister. Conjuring
spells into love poems. At night, we would all drink. Drink
cocktails that my sister made. Drink in the warm weather, eating
barbecue chicken and ribs. Pizza made on a fire. Drink in the
memory of family we used to religiously visit like the manic-
depressive cousin who sang opera we never heard from anymore.
Whose parents in their seventies were getting a divorce. This
was the future now. My sister, the photographer. My brother,
the financial planner, father, my mother, deaf and pretending
that she was still young and looked good for her age. My father,
elderly, diabetic, who had trouble with his legs. In public, he would
push away my arm. Embarrassed that he needed help to walk.
Weather had its own body that summer. Sunlight against the wall,
we’d all sleep in the afternoon. Wake up late in the mornings.
My sister would take charge in the kitchen. In the shops, carrying
packages. Now her heart is set on Prague. Falling in love.
Becoming wife, lover and mother. Walking past lakes. Leaving
her fragile family, nerve damage, hugging the shore life behind
in South Africa. I learned that summer that even poems have lungs.