untitled (‘I’m the daughter, so I’ll get the mortgage’)

I’m the daughter, so I’ll get the mortgage,
native shrubs, leather-look lounge.

You’re the mother, so for you it’s a villa,
rose garden,
thorns and blooms.

Double bed,
Car CD,
European holiday slides,

Twin beds.
White bowls dress, white
Hat on white hair.

Baby talk,
Money talk,
Pep talk.

Old friends,
Faithful cats.
Photographs, angina pills,

I’ll be surrounded.
Inundated. Busy.
Grand Central Station.
Husband, babies, friends, committees
And a clan of demanding in-laws.

You —
Guest bedroom dusted weekly. Matching lamps.
Grandchildren distant,
Children absent.
Even old friends and faithful cats will leave you
In the end.

(First published in aversion)


The cafe poets, the pub poets,
the kitchen table poets,
the poets with pain and the
poets without
look at me and say
Which are you?
I say
I don’t know.
I don’t want to know.
Read my poems and define me.

I could tell them this:
My mother is a seaside artist,
a meadow artist,
a pebble painter.
My mother is a fireside spinner,
an easy-chair knitter.
My mother is a natural dyer
and a skier
but still undefined
she says.


Slapped on a bored face
knocked from a safe place
arrow through heart.
Enraptured, suspended
captured, upended
tangled in art.

Caught in a lifetrap
hugged in a warm wrap
taken aside.
Surrounded, accosted
grounded, defrosted
woken, wide-eyed.

Flipped like a new leaf
swiped by a smart thief
carried away.
Unshackled, diverted
tackled, converted…
And all in one day!

Doing It Again, 1988

Shattering dream of the distant
Rising pain of the familiar.

You dive in the old sea gladly, expecting
the fish to be the same
But here are new fish and changed fish
and someone’s moved the rocks.

You get lost in it
but not lost enough
Enough of it remains unchanged
to send the knives of the forgotten familiar revisited
Slicing and spiking into you.

And the distant —
where you have been all this time —
the distant with its other ways,
other clothes,
other weather,
other people,
the distant lurks as a lateral lance
waiting to push you back into itself
And you know it will happen
(your flight is booked)
But you shield yourself from it with
Brazen black
and haunting, dragging smells

And you vow
(yet again)
that next time you fly
from the distant to the familiar
next time you do it again
You will stay
and shatter the dream of the distant
Satisfy the pain of the familiar.