POEMS

Fighting Talk

Openings

 

Close a piano lid and the music inside will die,

keys yellow like tobacco stains on fingers,

strings tighten in their cage. Only milk

will make the ivory shine white again.

My mother taught me this, and how to play;

how to sit with one tune in a beige front room

as dusk is falling and the children call outside;

how to leave the dark wood stool when told,

when note for note is perfect; black, white.

 

Then Mr Kubilius, who showed me Bach

was silver, red, and stamped his boots;

Debussy turquoise, sea, and crystals

catching light, soft pedalling translucency of air.

My fingers learned to speak for me,

the branches of a lime tree sweeping

over blue draped windows, casting

cooling shadows over amber light.  I played,

while Mr Kubilius closed his eyes, and smiled.

 

 

Cathy Grindrod

 

Taking tea with Byron

 

Come back.  Let this gentle greenness lure you –

the lovely thwack of cricket balls

beneath the elms.  You could crack for me

that code of numbers I have never understood,

beside the old pavilion, taking English tea.

 

Bad to trample grass round ornamental flower beds.

Let’s do it!  Let’s hide out in ivy-covered tunnels,

stir up the stew pond, vault monastic walls,

startle swans beside the lake with manic yells,

shoot antlers off the stags’ heads in the hall.

 

You considered lobster salad and champagne

the only fitting viands for my sex.  You’ll learn.

For a while, I’ll acquiesce – I, in my petticoats, at home,

as we eat supper here, beneath this Japanese pagoda.

Flick of pithy orange peel; coy carp, white stone.

 

And now I’ll tempt you to a weeping willow’s shade,

lie with you, hidden at its swaying core, while peacocks keen,

yawp-yowling from their turrets to the dark drop below,

grieving for unfinished pasts, or creaking out a warning cry:

Beware!  Beware!  She may be dangerous to know.

 

 

Cathy Grindrod

 

 

Outside In

 

(It’s not what they took; it’s what they left behind …)

 

And still I dream of white gloves; phantom

gloves that slip a window sash, curtains

gliding softly on their runners, eased

apart, returning sleek to cover tracks.

 

Gloves slinking into leaves

of neatly ironed handkerchiefs, lace

underwear, sending silken scarves

free-snaking with a stroke.

 

Filigree of earring hooks and sleepers

butterflied across a bed.

 

Drawers slid awry in babies’ rooms.

Silver rings teased out from secret

boxes, nylon pillows skating

from their cases, bulked with air.

 

A message, left unsigned; cat’s cradle

woven in a pair of mitten strings.

 

Sneaking out, to leave behind

a window, door, and gate agape.

Finale, with a circled sleight of hand,

the house, slipped inside out;

 

home to empty space;

the desolation in a fingerprint.

 

 

Cathy Grindrod